A Vancouver man is facing life in prison after being found guilty of human trafficking and enslaving the Filipina nanny he brought to Canada from Hong Kong to care for his three children.
Franco Orr and his wife Nicole Huen were accused of bringing live-in nanny Leticia Sarmiento to Canada illegally in 2008 and forcing her to work in domestic servitude for several years until she called the police in June 2010.
In B.C. Supreme Court Wednesday, Orr was found guilty on all charges, including human trafficking, after two and a half days of deliberations by the jury. His wife was found not guilty on all charges.
Orr's defence lawyer Nicholas Preovolos said his client is devastated.
"They're in shock frankly. They're stunned," he told reporters outside the court.
"It's an odd verdict, in that the jury apparently believed a number of allegations that Ms. Sarmiento made against Mr. Orr, but didn't believe the allegations she made against Ms. Huen."
Sarmiento worked for the couple in Hong Kong before being asked to join them in Vancouver in 2008. Her visa expired after only six months.
In 2010, she called 911 in tears, saying she had been imprisoned after a confrontation with her employers.
The call, not previously released to the public, is difficult to understand through Sarmiento's sobbing.
Sarmiento explains to the dispatch officer that she is hiding in an upstairs bathroom — and is locked in the room.
Police arrived at the East Vancouver house shortly after and charges were quickly laid against Orr and Huen.
During the trial, Sarmiento testified she was forced to work long hours with no days off, forbidden from leaving the family's Vancouver-area homes.
She also testified she was only allowed one phone call to her family in the Philippines each month, and had her passport taken from her by the family.
But Preovolos said he was surprised and disappointed by Wednesday's verdict, citing "serious credibility problems" with the complainant.
"I struggle to understand how it is that the jury was able to find beyond all reasonable doubt that her evidence was reliable," he said.
Sarmiento has looked after other peoples' children for most of her adult life, in places including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Hong Kong.
She told the court she was tricked into coming to B.C. with the young family on the promise she'd work for two years before becoming a permanent resident.
Preovolos said he will ask the judge to consider a sentence of house arrest.
"We accomplish nothing by putting someone like Mr. Orr in jail," he said. "He's not a danger to the public. He won't hurt anybody."