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Virginia couple pleads guilty to alien harboring

Tuesday - 5/6/2014, 4:49pm  ET

Marissa Paiano, special to wtop.com

WASHNIGTON -- A Virginia couple has pleaded guilty to one count of alien harboring.

According to a Department of Justice news release, Abdelkader and Hnia Amal, who are married, entered the plea Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

According to the release, the Amals unlawfully smuggled a woman from Morocco into the United States and kept her in their house for three years as a domestic servant.

The couple brought the Moroccan woman, identified as F.H. in court records, to the U.S. in December 2007. However, her visa was acquired under the false representations that F.H. would be employed as a domestic servant for a different employer. She was concealed in the defendants' Alexandria home until December 2010, according to court records.

During that time, she worked as a domestic servant for the Amals and also worked for Hnia Amal's commercial cleaning company, where she cleaned residential and commercial properties, according to the news release.

The defendants didn't pay F.H. a salary for her work as a domestic servant or for her work done for Hnia Amal's cleaning company, even though the company was receiving money for the work she did.

Instead, the Amals made two down payments on an apartment in Morocco on F.H.'s behalf. The payments were made in October 2010 and January 2011 and totaled about $8,500, which was approximately a quarter of the total cost of the apartment.

As part of a plea agreement the couple has agreed to pay F.H. at least $52,700 in restitution.

Previously, Abdelkader Amal held an A-1 diplomatic visa as a military official in the Moroccan embassy in Washington. However, since his retirement in 2003 as the defense supply attaché, he's no longer eligible to sponsor individuals for domestic employment under an A-3 visa, according to the statement of facts entered with his plea agreement.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 11. The couple faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The court will consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines when determining the actual sentence.

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