Human trafficking trial: Filipino nanny’s behaviour was nervous, tired say witnesses

HUMAN TRAFFICIKING

Live-in caregiver Leticia Sarmiento, arrives at the B.C. Supreme court in downtown Vancouver, B.C. Thursday, May 30, 2013. Sarmiento a mother of three is suing her employers to recover the money she claims she’s owed after working for them for four years without pay. Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS

KEITH FRASER
THE PROVINCE

Several Crown witnesses testified Tuesday that Filipino nanny Leticia Sarmiento, who alleges her employer kept her enslaved for nearly two years, was seen to be nervous and afraid.

Fabian Krezinski, 83, described an incident in which a Filipino nanny, believed to be Sarmiento, sat beside him at a Richmond food court and had a conversation with him.

“She was very nervous and looked around all the time,” he told a B.C. Supreme Court jury. “I thought she was scared. She didn’t have a smile on her face. That lady was very upset.”

Krezinski said the lady spoke to him about her employment as a nanny but did not provide her name and did not take up his offer to take his name and phone number.

After a short conversation, the nanny crouched down beside the table in front of him as a well-dressed man and woman approached them with their two kids.

“She was so scared,” he said. “She didn’t want them to know that she was talking to somebody.”

Krezinski said he believed the family to be the nanny’s employers.

During her testimony, Sarmiento had described a similar incident, of speaking to an elderly man in a food court.

Sarmiento’s employers, Oi Ling Nicole Huen and Franco Yiu Kwan Orr, have pleaded not guilty to human trafficking charges.

The Vancouver couple are alleged to have brought Sarmiento with them to Canada from Hong Kong under false pretences. The nanny alleges she was kept in domestic servitude, working long hours with little pay and no days off.

Theresa Valesco, a Filipino nanny, testified that she met Sarmiento several times at an arts and crafts course at the Sunset Community Centre in Vancouver.

Asked by Crown counsel Charles Hough to describe Sarmiento’s demeanour, she said the nanny “would always be afraid and nervous” and looked haggard, with bags under her eyes.

Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Nicholas Preovolos, Valesco said Sarmiento told her that she was in Canada without proper immigration status.

Hough asked the witness what exactly Sarmiento said in regard to the immigration status.

“She said she entered Canada as a tourist, now she’s overstayed and her employer did not renew her visa.”

Satdev Khokhar, a repairman, testified that he did repairs on the Richmond townhouse where the family and Sarmiento lived for a brief period.

He told the jury that Sarmiento was “very busy” cleaning, cooking, doing the laundry and looking after the couple’s three children.

He described an incident in which he spoke to Sarmiento as she took the garbage out one day.

“She looked worried, very sad — not happy, I guess. She kept looking over her shoulder, at the window.”

Khokhar said that, in contrast, the other nannies he met during his work were “much happier” and frequently chatted with him in a relaxed way.

kfraser@theprovince.com

twitter.com/keithrfraser

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