[Stop-traffic] News/US: Man Gets 6 Years for Enslaving Immigrant (washingtonpost.com)

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/US: Man Gets 6 Years for Enslaving Immigrant (washingtonpost.com)
morhant@igc.org
Date: Thu Aug 31 2000 - 08:56:46 EDT


Man Gets 6 Years for Enslaving Immigrant

_____From The Post_____

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 15, 2000; Page B01

A Gaithersburg man who kept a Brazilian woman as a live-in slave for
nearly 20 years--and did nothing to stop his wife from beating
her--was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt to 6
1/2 years in prison for violating immigration laws.

Rene R. Bonetti, 51, was ordered to pay $110,000 in restitution to
Hilda Rosa Dos Santos, the illiterate Portuguese-speaking woman, who
according to federal prosecutors and court testimony, Bonetti and his
wife kept enslaved in their home.

U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow said it was the maximum
amount permissible. She also fined Bonetti $100,000, to be paid after
restitution is made. Margarida Bonetti, 46, who was indicted with her
husband, is a fugitive in her native Brazil.

Chasanow noted that Bonetti's sentence--which she increased from
federal guidelines because she found he committed perjury during his
trial testimony--"is far less time than Miss Dos Santos spent living
under conditions which violated American law."

Federal officials said Dos Santos is one of thousands of foreign
domestic workers who are brought into the United States by their
employers--often from their native country--and abused. The Bonetti
case has received extensive coverage in Brazil and has been watched
closely by diplomats and other affluent foreigners working in the
Washington area.

Maryland U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia said she hoped that
Bonetti's conviction and prison sentence would deter anyone who is
abusing foreign workers.

"This kind of slavery in the year 2000 is intolerable," Battaglia said.

Dos Santos, who did not attend yesterday's hearing, is still in the
United States and is applying to the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service for humanitarian asylum, said Cathy Hollenberg
Serrette, a lawyer who represents Dos Santos in a civil case against
Bonetti.

Bonetti declined to speak on his own behalf and did not react
outwardly as Chasanow announced the sentence.

A satellite engineer who according to testimony earned about $90,000
annually, Bonetti is a native of Brazil and a naturalized U.S.
citizen. He has been incarcerated since his conviction in February,
and after sentencing he was handcuffed and taken away by a U.S.
marshal.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach had asked Chasanow to
sentence Bonetti to the longest possible prison term, seven years and
three months. "There's no excuse for what he did," Dettelbach said.

Bonetti's attorney, Paul F. Kemp, asked the judge for leniency,
saying that it was Margarida Bonetti who inflicted the abuse on Dos
Santos. Of his client, Kemp told Chasanow: "He's ruined. . . . He's a
PhD, and his life is wrecked."

Chasanow found that Bonetti obstructed justice by committing perjury
when he testified he did not know Dos Santos was in the country
illegally and did not know his wife beat Dos Santos.

A federal criminal jury convicted Bonetti of three immigration law
felonies: conspiring to harbor an undocumented alien, harboring an
undocumented alien for financial gain and endangering the life of an
undocumented alien.

According to court testimony, the Bonettis brought Dos Santos to the
United States from Brazil in 1979. Rene Bonetti testified that he
knew Dos Santos's visa was expiring in the early 1980s and said he
advised her to take steps to become legalized and assumed she had,
even though she is illiterate and speaks no English.

Through interpreters, Dos Santos testified that Bonetti's wife,
Margarida Bonetti, once poured hot soup on her face and chest because
she did not like the way Dos Santos had prepared it.

On another occasion, Dos Santos testified, Margarida Bonetti did not
like the way she combed the family dog and yanked out some of her
hair, leaving her head bleeding.

Dos Santos testified that when she asked Rene Bonetti for help, he
told her to pray for Margarida.

According to court testimony, Dos Santos slept in a small windowless,
basement while the Bonettis and their son lived upstairs; Rene
Bonetti padlocked their refrigerator to prevent Dos Santos from
getting anything to eat or drink from it.

Dos Santos testified that she was never paid for the cleaning,
cooking and yardwork she did for the Bonettis. On several occasions
when the Bonettis traveled, Dos Santos testified, she wandered the
well-off Gaithersburg neighborhood, trying to beg for money for food.

The Bonettis did not get her medical treatment for a gaping wound in
her leg that became infected and for a large stomach tumor, Dos
Santos testified. In April 1998, Dos Santos finally left the Bonetti
home when sympathetic neighbors took her to a hospital to have her
tumor removed. The tumor, which prosecutors described as being the
size of a soccer ball, was benign.

Hospital social workers learned of Dos Santos's plight, and the FBI
and INS began to investigate.

2000 The Washington Post Company

Man Found Guilty in Slave Case

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 2000; Page B01

A Gaithersburg man charged with keeping a Brazilian woman as a
"live-in slave" for nearly 20 years was convicted in U.S. District
Court in Greenbelt yesterday of violating immigration laws in
connection with his treatment of the woman.

The jury deliberated about seven hours over two days before finding
Rene R. Bonetti guilty of all three immigration law felonies with
which he was charged: conspiring to harbor an undocumented alien,
harboring an undocumented alien for financial gain and endangering
the life of an undocumented alien he harbored.

Bonetti did not react outwardly as the verdict was read. At the
request of Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach, who argued
that Bonetti was a risk to flee the country, U.S. District Judge
Deborah K. Chasanow ordered him taken into custody immediately.

Bonetti, 51, who faces a maximum prison sentence of 35 years, had
been free on $50,000 bond since he was indicted by a federal grand
jury last September. Chasanow scheduled sentencing for May 15.

Bonetti was convicted of harboring and abusing Hilda Rosa Dos Santos,
who came to the United States in 1979 to work for Bonetti and his
wife, Margarida.

Federal officials say that thousands of foreign domestic workers like
Dos Santos are brought into the United States by their employers and
abused.

Maryland U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia said she hopes the
conviction of Bonetti will make people think twice about abusing
people like Dos Santos.

"People sometimes forget that there are dire consequences to
basically holding people in slavery in this country," Battaglia said
in an interview.

"We see this woman as representing the most vulnerable segment of our
population. This is one of those cases which called out for federal
involvement," Battaglia said.

Margarida Bonetti, 46, who was indicted on charges of abusing Dos
Santos, fled the United States and is now in her native Brazil,
according to testimony during the trial. Dos Santos had worked for
Margarida Bonetti's family in Brazil since 1961, according to court
testimony.

Dos Santos, 65, illiterate in her native Portuguese and unable to
speak English, testified through interpreters that Margarida Bonetti
assaulted her repeatedly while Rene Bonetti did nothing to help Dos
Santos, except to suggest that she pray for his wife.

She also testified that she was never paid for the cleaning, cooking
and yardwork she did for the Bonettis and that her employers did not
get her medical treatment for a large stomach tumor and a gaping open
wound in her leg that became infected.

Dos Santos lived in a small, windowless basement, while the Bonettis,
who padlocked their refrigerator to keep Dos Santos out of it, lived
in the large, comfortable upstairs part of the house, according to
court testimony.

Rene Bonetti, a native of Brazil, is now a U.S. citizen. John C.
Maginnis, his attorney, said his client was "completely at peace"
with the verdict and expressed concern for Dos Santos.

Bonetti testified that neither he nor his wife ever abused Dos
Santos, whom he characterized as a longtime family friend who was
incompetent at housecleaning tasks. He testified that he knew Dos
Santos's temporary visa was expiring in the early 1980s and urged her
to take steps to become legalized and took her word for it when she
said she had.

In her closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mythili Raman
described Bonetti's defense as "an intricate web of lies." She
pointed out that Bonetti had admitted during cross-examination that
he had lied to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and
FBI Special Agent Don Niely, who helped investigate the case.

"He confessed, ladies and gentlemen," Raman said.

Dos Santos finally left the Bonetti home in April 1998, when
neighbors took her to a hospital to have her tumor, which prosecutors
described as the size of a soccer ball, surgically removed. The tumor
was benign.

It was then that social workers learned of Dos Santos's plight, and
the FBI and INS began to investigate while Montgomery Couty's
Department of Adult Protective Services stepped in to help the woman.

Dos Santos, who according to court testimony was given away by her
birth mother and has no family in Brazil, was granted temporary legal
status to testify against Bonetti. It could not be learned yesterday
whether she plans to petition the INS to stay in the United States.

2000 The Washington Post Company
______________________

Enslaver's Assets Frozen By Court

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 31, 2000; Page B05

A federal judge has frozen the assets of a Gaithersburg man convicted
in February of keeping a Brazilian woman as a "live-in slave," after
FBI agents notified prosecutors that the man was selling off his
property here and transferring assets to Brazil.

Rene R. Bonetti, 51, who was found guilty of immigration law
violations, could owe the woman--who worked in his home for nearly 20
years without pay--more than $160,000 in restitution, according to
documents filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt in support of the
request for the freeze.

The documents also state that federal probation officials believe
Bonetti suborned perjury during his trial--by getting his adult son
to testify that Hilda Rosa Dos Santos was a friend who had worked
willingly for the family--and obstructed justice by encouraging his
wife, who was indicted in the same case, to remain in Brazil and
beyond the reach of U.S. courts. Margarida Bonetti, 46, remains a
fugitive.

Because of the new developments, sentencing for Rene Bonetti, who has
been jailed since he was convicted Feb. 10, has been postponed until
July 28. The three charges on which he was convicted carry a total
maximum penalty of 35 years in prison and restitution.

Dos Santos, 65, testified in Bonetti's trial that she came with the
Bonettis to the United States in 1979 to work as their housekeeper.
Dos Santos testified that she was never paid for the cleaning,
cooking and yardwork she did for the Bonettis and that her employers
did not get her medical treatment for a large stomach tumor and a
gaping open wound in her leg that became infected.

Illiterate in her native Portuguese and unable to speak English, Dos
Santos testified through interpreters that Margarida Bonetti
assaulted her repeatedly. On one occasion, Dos Santos testified,
Margarida Bonetti became enraged at the way she was combing the
family dog and yanked hair from her head until her scalp was bleeding.

Dos Santos lived in a small, windowless basement, while the Bonettis
lived in the large, comfortable upstairs portion of the house,
according to court testimony, and the Bonettis padlocked their
refrigerator to keep Dos Santos out of it.

Rene Bonetti testified that neither he nor his wife ever abused Dos
Santos. He testified that Dos Santos insisted on doing chores around
the house and was not the family housekeeper.

The latest twists in the widely publicized case--brought after a
lengthy FBI and Immigration and Naturalization Service
investigation--came when Bonetti's trial attorney asked to be removed
from the case just before the scheduled May 15 sentencing, saying he
had just learned that a defense witness may have given perjured
testimony. In his motion to withdraw, John C. Maginnis said he had a
conflict in continuing to represent Bonetti because he could be a
witness if perjury charges were filed.

Maginnis did not identify the witness. But court records show that
Arthur Vincent Bonetti, Rene and Margarida's son, told FBI Special
Agent Donald A. Neily that he wanted to recant all or part of trial
testimony he had given on behalf of his father.

U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow agreed to let Maginnis
withdraw. Court records show that Rene Bonetti has retained Rockville
lawyer Paul F. Kemp, who said he was new to the case and had no
comment.

A week after Maginnis's withdrawal, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven
M. Dettelbach and Mythili Raman asked Chasanow to freeze Bonetti's
assets. In their request, the prosecutors said that Bonetti was in
the process of selling his Gaithersburg home, had moved much of his
personal property out of the home and had made arrangements to ship
the belongings to his native Brazil.

The prosecutors also took the unusual step of disclosing a portion of
the U.S. Probation Department's pre-sentence report on Bonetti, a
document that usually would be confidential. They said the report
"includes an uncontested recommendation that significant restitution
be awarded to the victim in this case, Hilda Rosa Dos Santos."

The report, according to the motion, recommends that the sentence for
Bonetti be enhanced--that is, increased, under federal sentencing
guidelines--for obstruction of justice, "based upon the defendant's
perjury, his suborning of perjury by relatives, and his admitted
actions in encouraging his indicted, co-conspirator wife to remain
beyond the jurisdiction of this court."

Bonetti, a satellite engineer, was convicted of three federal
immigration law felonies: conspiring to harbor an undocumented alien,
harboring an undocumented alien for financial gain and endangering
the life of an undocumented alien he harbored. His wife was indicted
on charges of abusing Dos Santos and violating immigration laws.

Under Chasanow's order, Bonetti agreed to revoke the
power-of-attorney he had granted to his mother-in-law and to revoke
transfer of the title to his Alfa Romeo sports car to his son Arthur.

2000 The Washington Post Company
___________________________

Abuse of 'Live-in Slave' Denied

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 9, 2000; Page B05

A Gaithersburg man charged with keeping his family's Brazilian
housekeeper as an unpaid "live-in slave" for nearly 20 years and
failing to protect the woman from beatings by his wife told a federal
jury in Greenbelt yesterday that neither he nor his wife ever abused
the woman.

Testifying on his own behalf for a second day, Rene R. Bonetti said
the woman, Hilda Rosa Dos Santos, 65, had originally been an employee
of his wife's parents but had stayed on voluntarily for 14 years
after his in-laws said they would no longer pay her.

Bonetti, 51, testified that Dos Santos was incompetent as a
housekeeper and cook but still insisted on doing chores such as
dusting, vacuuming and raking leaves, even when he instructed her not
to.

Asked by his attorney, John C. Maginnis, whether he or his wife,
Margarida, had ever beaten Dos Santos, Bonetti replied, "Absolutely
never."

He also told the jury that he had calculated that it cost him
$136,000 to keep Dos Santos in his home from 1979 through 1998. He
said the estimate include $75.32 monthly for utilities, $250 in
repairs to the clothes dryer, $4,200 for a burned electric range and
$150 for six of his dress shirts that Dos Santos ruined. He added
that he produced the figures at the request of his attorney and does
not believe Dos Santos owes him anything.

Bonetti's assessment of Dos Santos's worth was somewhat different
during cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M.
Dettelbach.

Bonetti also acknowledged that he attempted to pay Dos Santos $4,050
about a week before the trial began. He described the sum as being
roughly equivalent to the Brazilian minimum wage for four years and
eight months of work and said he sent the check on behalf of his
in-laws.

Dettelbach, using a calculator, figured it represented about 42 cents
an hour, based on a 40-hour week.

During cross-examination, Bonetti admitted that he had lied several
times in filling out U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service
forms on his own behalf or on behalf of Dos Santos.

Bonetti testified that it came as a surprise and disappointment that
Dos Santos turned out to be an incompetent housekeeper, so bad that
she created "havoc" and more work for him and his wife. But
Dettelbach questioned how it could have been a surprise. He showed
him an INS document in which Bonetti said he and Dos Santos had both
lived in Margarida's home in Brazil before they came to the United
States.

Bonetti admitted that he had lied but said he believed that putting
that on the INS form would help Dos Santos get into the United States.

The prosecutor also showed Bonetti an INS form, filled out by Bonetti
for Dos Santos, in which the woman listed Rene Bonetti as her
employer.

Bonetti testified that he didn't believe he was violating the
"spirit" of the law against lying on immigration forms, but rather
was trying to help Dos Santos get into the United States because her
life was in peril if she remained in Brazil.

Dos Santos--who is illiterate in her native Portuguese and speaks no
English--has testified that she slept in a small, windowless basement
while the Bonettis and their son lived upstairs; that Rene Bonetti
padlocked the refrigerator in the main house; that Margarida Bonetti
once poured hot soup on her face and chest because she didn't like
the way Dos Santos had prepared it; and that the family refused to
pay for her medical care.

Dos Santos finally left the Bonetti home in the spring of 1998 when a
friend took her to a hospital for an operation to remove a benign
stomach tumor and social workers learned of her plight. Prosecutors
said the tumor was the size of a soccer ball.

Federal officials said Dos Santos's situation was similar to that of
thousands of foreign-born domestic workers who are brought into the
United States by their employers and abused.

Rene and Margarida Bonetti are each charged in a federal indictment
with knowingly harboring an undocumented alien; harboring an
undocumented alien for financial gain; and endangering the life of an
undocumented alien they harbored. Conviction on each of the charges
could bring a prison sentence of more than 20 years.

Margarida Bonetti is a fugitive and has returned to Brazil,
Dettelbach said in court.

According to testimony and court documents, the Bonettis brought Dos
Santos with them when they moved from their native Brazil to
Gaithersburg in 1979. She had worked for the family of Margarida
since 1961, according to testimony.

All three originally came to the United States on temporary visas,
though Rene Bonetti later became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Bonetti testified that he and Margarida did not want to bring Dos
Santos with them to the United States as a housekeeper. He said they
brought her because, at the time, she was involved in a romantic
triangle with a man she learned was married, and her life was in
danger.

When Margarida's parents asked Dos Santos to return to their home in
1984, Dos Santos said she would rather stay in the United States, at
which point the parents told Dos Santos they would no longer pay her,
Bonetti testified. Bonetti testified that he urged Dos Santos to take
steps to legalize her status.

2000 The Washington Post Company


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