A Woodbury woman arrested last year after her Chinese nanny was found beaten and malnourished agreed Wednesday to plead guilty to both federal and state charges that include elements of forced labor and assault.
Lili Huang’s plea canceled a federal trial scheduled for next week in Minneapolis. As part of the agreement, federal prosecutors said that they agreed to request a one-year sentence to be followed by deportation to China.
Huang, 36, admitted to withholding a passport “in furtherance of [the] forced labor” of a nanny she brought from Shanghai to work for her last year. Speaking through an interpreter, Huang told U.S. Senior District Judge David Doty that she had confiscated the 58-year-old nanny’s passport after she asked for help purchasing a ticket home in April 2016 after “repeated physical abuse” from Huang.
Huang said the nanny, identified by the initials F.L., had worked as a servant for the family in China, where she was treated well. But Huang agreed on Wednesday with a prosecutor’s assessment that the “scope of the work and the victim’s treatment was significantly different” after Huang helped her acquire a tourist visa and paid for her to come work for her in Minnesota in February 2016.
According to the plea agreement, F.L. was forced to work up to 18 hours a day cooking, cleaning and providing child care. She was paid roughly $900 each month that was deposited in an account she could not access while in the U.S.
Huang admitted to punching, kicking, grabbing and emotionally abusing F.L., whose weight had dropped to 88 pounds by the time police found her wandering alone one night last July. F.L. had fled Huang’s home that evening after being threatened for spilling food. When Homeland Security agents and police searched Huang’s home, they found a bag of F.L.’s hair stashed under a bed. F.L. later told authorities she hid the hair after Huang had torn it from her head so Huang would not force her to eat it.
Huang gave one or two-word answers on Wednesday as she admitted to fracturing F.L.’s sternum and causing multiple rib fractures that were discovered during a medical exam in July.
One of Huang’s attorneys, Ryan Pacyga, told Doty that she would also be pleading guilty to third-degree assault. Huang’s attorneys and federal prosecutors agreed to ask for a one-year sentence that would be served alongside her sentence on state charges, and that Huang would be deported to China after serving the sentence. Huang also agreed to pay at least $60,000 in restitution to F.L. and $5,000 to the Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund. Huang’s Woodbury home is meanwhile subject to forfeiture.