LOS ANGELES (AFP): A Thai was sentenced today to more than eight years in prison for illegally bringing three Thai women into the United States and forcing them to work in slave-like conditions. Supawan Veerapol, the 55-year-old common law wife of Thailand’s former ambassador to Sweden, used her diplomatic connections to bring the women into the country to work in her home and restaurant, prosecutors said. She has been jailed since her August conviction and maintained her innocence in court today, refusing to apologize or plead for mercy before Judge Carlos Moreno handed down the sentence. “They came here voluntarily and wanted to be here,” defense attorney Anthony Willoughby said of the undocumented immigrant women. Assistant US Attorney Jack Weiss said Veerapol “shows a total and utter lack of remorse.” Moreno agreed, refusing a defense request to lighten Veerapol’s sentence because she offered to plead guilty to lesser charges. “I think even to this day, the defendant feels she didn’t do anything wrong,” Moreno said, adding that he gave Veerapol a harsher sentence because she kept the women for more than a year and because she took advantage of immigrants who felt they had little recourse [to protection by the law]. “I think these victims were particularly vulnerable,” the judge said. In addition to the prison time, Moreno ordered Veerapol to pay more than 85,500 dollars to banks she defrauded by running up credit card bills in her victims’ names. The jury found her guilty of 11 felony counts, including one count of involuntary servitude, three counts of harboring illegal aliens, and seven counts of mail fraud for obtaining credit cards in the women’s names. The women were forced to wash Veerapol’s car, clean her house and give her manicures and pedicures. One woman testified she was required to sleep on the floor outside Veerapol’s bedroom in case she needed anything during the night, and was told to serve guests on her knees. Veerapol was arrested in 1998 after two of the women escaped and requested help from prominent members of the Thai community in Los Angeles.
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