B.C. man sentenced to 18 months for human trafficking of nanny

Posted Oct 16, 2013 by Arthur Weinreb
Franco Orr became the first person in Canada to be sentenced for human trafficking under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act rather than the Criminal Code.
Franco Orr  and his wife  Nicole  going to court during trial on immigration charges.
Franco Orr, and his wife, Nicole, going to court during trial on immigration charges.
Screen capture from CBC News
Orr, 50, appeared before B.C. Supreme Court Justice Richard Goepel for sentencing yesterday in Vancouver. In June, Orr was found guilty of human trafficking, illegally employing a foreign national, and making misleading statements to Canada Immigration. Orr's wife, Nicole Huen, was jointly tried on the same charges. After deliberating for more than two days, the jury found Orr guilty and acquitted Huen of all counts.
Leticia Sarmiento, a Filipina, worked for Orr and Huen as a nanny in Hong Kong. When the couple moved to Canada with their three children in 2008, Sarmiento came with them. The nanny was under the impression she was in the country legally.
In June 2010, while in the family's home, Sarmiento hid in a bathroom and called 911. She claimed Huen threw water at her after she gave the children soy milk instead of regular milk. Police arrived and took the nanny out of the house.
Sarmiento then discovered she was in Canada illegally. She originally entered the country with a six months visitor's visa that had since expired. Sarmiento told police Orr and Huen told her she could apply for permanent residence status after she worked for two years.
The nanny also said she was a virtual prisoner in the home, never allowed to go out, and only allowed to telephone her family in the Philippines once a month. She also told police she was paid $500 a month, never given a day off, and had her passport taken from her. As a result of these allegations, Orr and Huen were arrested and charged.
The Crown asked for a sentence of between five and six years. In imposing the sentence of 18 months, Justice Goepel discounted much of Sarmiento's testimony. The judge concluded the prosecution had not proved the nanny worked as much as she said she did and he was not satisfied she suffered the humiliating and degrading treatment she claimed.
The judge took into account Orr was a productive member of society with no previous record. He said, "Individuals cannot be allowed to disregard the immigration laws of this country with impunity. Mr. Orr did profit from his employment of Miss Sarmiento due to the low-wage pay, albeit the profit was relatively modest. A lack of significant aggravating factors puts this offence at the lower end of the continuum."
In rejecting the conditional sentence (a sentence served at home) sought by Orr's lawyer, Nicholas Preovolos, the judge acknowledged Sarmiento was misled about her salary, working conditions and her status in Canada. After she left the home, she was virtually alone in the country.
While 46 people have been convicted of human trafficking under the Criminal Code, Orr was the first person convicted of the offence under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. To constitute an offence under the latter act, the victim must be trafficked into Canada from another country. The maximum punishment upon conviction is life imprisonment and a $1 million fine.
Preovolos said he will appeal the conviction and hopes to have Orr released on bail pending appeal.