NEW YORK – Fifty-six year old Leticia Moratal came to the US to become a babysitter for a Filipino family in New York, but her dream of making it big in New York, turned into a nightmare.
For 10 years, she said she was enslaved by Elsa and Augusto Nolasco, including their daughter Laarni.
Moratal said she worked long hours as a babysitter and never got paid a single cent by the family. She accuses the Nolasco family of subjecting her to forced labor, cruel treatment and psychological abuse.
But with the help of her aunt Maria Garri, Moratal escaped from her employer’s home in Jamaica, New York.
She immediately sought the help of Attorney Felix Vinluan, a human rights advocate, to file a case against the Nolasco family on December 28, 2010. The case was filed at the New York Eastern District Court in Brooklyn.
Moratal is suing the Nolasco family for forced labor, slavery, and human trafficking.
“In essence she was made a slave. She was enslaved in this country. In addition to the trafficking case, there were also violations of federal as well as state minimum wage laws,” said Vinluan.
Garri said, “Kung ako ang tatanungin, maikulong at mai-deport sa Pilipinas ng walang bail. Ayun ang gusto ko sa kanila. Ang mga taong ganyan hindi dapat mabuhay sa mundong ito dahil masama ang heart nila, wala silang kaluluwa”.
With only a handwritten employment contract, then real estate agent Moratal came to the US in 2001 on a B-1 visitor’s visa to work as a babysitter for the Nolasco family in Jamaica, New York.
The contract says she would receive $800 a month for her services only as a nanny and with a day off once a week.
But a few days after arriving in New York, Moratal said Elsa and Augusto brought her to their daughter’s house in Florida to take care of their granddaughter.
Aside from babysitting, Moratala said Laarni made her cook, clean the house, do yard work, and clean their boat. She said she worked more than 84 hours a week with no days off.
Moratal said, “Kaya ako pumarito sa America, gusto kong mabigyan ng magandang edukasyon ang mga anak ko. But for my sacrifices, this is too much na ibinigay sa akin. Wala naman akong hangarin na masama sa kapwa ko.”
‘Baba, the slave’
Moratal said she was asked to give a bank account number in the Philippines so the Nolascos could remit her paycheck directly to her relatives back home.
Moratal says she was never given receipts of the remittances and she never received a single cent for the 10 long years she worked for the Nolasco family.
Worse, she said, the Nolascos confiscated her passport and so she ended up overstaying her visa. She had minimal contact with her family and was told not to talk to other Filipinos about her plight.
Moratal said the Nolascos even called her “Baba, the Slave.”
Moratal said, “Naaawa ako sa sarili ko at saka sabi ko bakit ganito ang buhay ko? Hindi naman ganito ang buhay ko sa Pilipinas na nagsasakripisyo ako, sobra naman ito. They took away all my human rights. Pero dasal pa din ako ng dasal.”
Her prayers were answered when she was transferred back to New York in 2009 to work for her original employers Elsa and Augusto.
Last December 16, Garri found her at the Nolascos house in Jamaica, took her out for lunch and never brought her back.
“I was crying. Anyway, I said nakalaya na ako, magpasalamat na lang tayo sa Diyos,” said Moratal, in between tears.
Through the lawsuit, Moratal is demanding damages from the Nolascos for human trafficking, involuntary servitude, unlawful conduct, fraudulent inducement, negligent misrepresentation, emotional distress, wage violations, unjust enrichment and conspiracy.
And as a victim of human trafficking, Vinluan said he is also filing a U-Visa for Moratal so she could legalize her status and work in New York.
If she wins the case, she may also be compensated for the 10 years she worked for the Nolascos.
Balitang America has tried to get a response from the Nolascos on Moratal’s case. They have yet to respond. Balitang America