An economist of Bangladeshi origin, working in the United Nations, was arrested June 20, on charges of fraud and theft in connection with the hiring of a domestic worker.
Hamidur Rashid, 50, an economist working at the United Nations Secretariat in the Development Policy and Analysis Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, was charged on multiple counts.
According to the ‘Complaint’ a copy of which was provided by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Rashid is charged with one count of visa fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; one count of access device fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison; one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison; and one count of fraud in foreign labor contracting, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
“Domestic workers brought to our country from abroad find themselves in a vulnerable position, far from home and facing a huge power imbalance relative to their employers,” Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim is quoted saying in a press release. Kim accused Rashid of allegedly taking “cruel advantage of his position of power, grossly overworking his domestic worker while paying her well below the wage he reported to the State Department and to the U.N.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Rashid also allegedly obtained the visa for his domestic worker through lies about the wages he intended to pay her, and once she was brought here, he allegedly set up a sham bank account to spend for himself the wages he purported to pay her.
The case was investigated by the Diplomatic Security Service of the State Department, which worked closely with law enforcement. Employees of international organizations such as the United can get G-5 visas for their domestic workers if they meet the requirements set out in 9 Foreign Affairs Manual. The requirements include an interview with the domestic worker at a U.S. embassy or consulate, proof that the applicant will earn a fair wage by U.S. and State Department standards. Employers have to submit an employment contract spelling out hours of work, the wage, and other specifics of the job, including making payment into an independent bank account of the domestic worker.
Prosecutors allege in the ‘Complaint’ that Rashid made false promises to the domestic worker and subsequently on the visa papers relating to the salary, to satisfy the State Department regulations.
The First Employment Contract met the legal requirements. In it Rashid said he would pay the employee $420 per week, which equates to a rate of $10.50 per hour, and that she would not work more than 8 hours a day, five days a week. Rashid however, made a ‘second’ employment contract with the employee, which stated a substantially lower wage of $290 per week, which equates to a rate of $7.25 per hour.
His domestic help worked at his home from January 2013 to October 2013, during which time, the workload far exceeded the 40 hours, the Complaint alleges.