Lawyer says Taiwan official in Missouri to plead guilty

Friday, November 18, 2011 | 1:29 p.m. CST

KANSAS CITY — A Taiwanese representative charged with violating federal labor laws by underpaying and overworking her Filipina housekeeper has agreed to plead guilty to the charge, her lawyer said Thursday.

Hsien Hsien Liu, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City, was charged in federal court on Nov. 10 with fraud in foreign labor contracting. She faced up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The court entered a not guilty plea on her behalf at her first appearance last week.

Liu's lawyer, Jim Wirken, said Thursday that Liu would plead guilty at a hearing Friday. He said he is seeking to have Liu sentenced to probation and deported immediately. Liu cannot be deported until she is sentenced, Wirken said.

"We're going to plead guilty to the single charge that's against her," he said. "We're hoping that we're going to have a sentencing right away."

Wirken said an agreement he is seeking with federal prosecutors also includes Liu, 64, paying the housekeeper, who complained to authorities about her treatment. He said another previous housekeeper who witnesses said in an FBI affidavit filed in the case also claimed Liu treated her badly would also receive a payment from Liu.

Wirken said he could not disclose the amounts of the proposed payments Thursday but said they were "not insignificant."

"That's just the right thing to do under the circumstances," he said.

James Chang, the Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesman, expressed optimism.

"We hope that through the U.S. lawyer we can achieve the best possible result," Chang told The Associated Press early Friday. "We hope that Hsien Hsien Lu can be released as soon as possible."

Don Ledford, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City, declined comment.

According to prosecutors, Liu's Kansas City TECO office maintains unofficial relations between the United States and Taiwan and is similar to a foreign government consulate, although the U.S. doesn't recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state.

Prosecutors have said they think Liu is the first foreign official to face a fraud in foreign labor contracting charge in the United States. Others have been prosecuted for mistreating domestic workers, but Liu is accused of violating a law covering the recruitment of foreign workers and their transport into the United States on fraudulent terms.

According to an FBI affidavit , TECO recruited the housekeeper in the Philippines in September 2011. According to the woman's visa application, her two-year employment contract called for her to be paid $1,240 a month, work 40-hour weeks and to be entitled to overtime.

Prosecutors said the woman was actually paid $400 to $450 a month, worked 16- to 18-hour days and was monitored with video surveillance equipment at Liu's suburban Kansas City home in Johnson County, Kan. They also say Liu took the woman's passport and was "verbally abusive."

The U.S. State Department did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday.

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