Couple convicted of harboring maid


They face up to 45 years in prison, deportation


Posted: May 26, 2006

A wealthy Brookfield couple face up to 45 years in prison, forfeiture of their home and deportation to their native Philippines after being the first convicted in eastern Wisconsin of imposing forced labor on an illegal immigrant they harbored as a maid for 19 years.

A federal jury deliberated about seven hours before finding Jefferson N. and Elnora Calimlim guilty of all four felony immigration charges filed against them, including what a prosecutor said may be the nation’s first forced labor conviction not involving use of violence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Johnson hailed the convictions as a victory for protecting the civil rights of all people and preventing human trafficking.

“Holding somebody in involuntary servitude goes against the very nature and foundation of the United States,” Johnson said in an interview. “The Department of Justice is dedicated to preserving people’s rights, regardless of their status in life.”

Defense attorneys immediately vowed to appeal, saying the case was rife with issues because the forced labor charge was enacted in 2000 and largely untested in courts.

Prosecutors contended in trial that the Calimlims exploited and manipulated an uneducated woman from an impoverished family into thinking she had no choice but to work for them for long hours with minimal pay under harsh restrictions or face deportation.

Defense attorneys acknowledged that the family went to great lengths to keep her hidden in the home, but said that was done to protect her, not coerce her. They said the woman, Irma Martinez, agreed to the rules because she wanted to work for them rather than live in the Philippines.

The Calimlims’ son Jefferson M. Calimlim, 31, was found guilty of one felony for harboring an illegal immigrant but acquitted of two other charges. He faces a maximum five-year prison term when he and his parents are sentenced Sept. 15.

The parents each were convicted of harboring an illegal immigrant for financial gain, conspiracy to harbor an illegal immigrant, forced labor and attempted forced labor.

Because they are legal, permanent residents of the United States but citizens of the Philippines, the parents face “practically inevitable” deportation, Johnson told Chief Judge Rudolph T. Randa as she argued that the couple be jailed pending sentencing.

Deportation will be decided not by the judge but by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, Johnson said.

Johnson argued that the couple are a high flight risk because of their wealth and family connections to the Philippines, given the substantial prison time they faced.

She said they would be unable to fathom changing from “living from a life of privilege to living in a 10-by-13 cell.”

The husband is a practicing ear, nose and throat doctor; his wife is a licensed physician who stopped working in 1982.

Defense attorneys Tom Brown and Michael Fitzgerald objected to immediate incarceration, saying the two were professionals who would not want to be separated from their three U.S.-born children or the husband’s medical practice.

Government holds passports

Randa declined to jail the couple but said the government will continue to hold their passports.

The family declined to comment, as did Brown and Fitzgerald. Martinez, who is living in Chicago with federal assistance, was not in court when the verdicts were delivered.

Defense attorney Rodney Cubbie, representing the Calimlims’ son, argued that his client should never have been charged. He was not involved in hiring, paying or setting the terms of Martinez’s employment, which began when he was 11.

After graduating from college, Jeff Jr. was living at home when agents raided the family’s 8,600-square-foot home on Still Point Trail in September 2004 – acting on a tip from the estranged wife of another son, Jack Calimlim.

During the raid, Jeff Jr. lied to an FBI agent who quickly questioned the son as he was sitting on a bathroom toilet. The son said he hadn’t seen the maid in about a year, but the father showed agents where she was hiding in her basement bedroom closet. The jury acquitted the son of lying to the agent.

The eight-day trial included testimony from the maid and her parents, whom the federal government had flown to the United States and who lived in Chicago in preparation for the trial.

Defense attorneys focused their attacks on the forced labor charges, acknowledging that the couple did knowingly harbor an illegal immigrant.

They argued, however, that it was not done for financial gain – a required element of the crime. They said the couple, who live in a $1.2 million suburban Milwaukee home with tennis courts and a four-car garage, were not motivated by obtaining cheap labor as the prosecution contended.

They said the family was driven by their Filipino culture.

The couple were raised in well-off families, with the family trees dominated by generations of doctors and nurses. Elnora Calimlim said she and her five siblings each had their own nanny growing up and she was very close to her nanny, confiding in her like a mother.

Elnora’s father, a physician, was the one who found Irma Martinez and made arrangements for her to be his daughter’s housekeeper and help raise his grandchildren.

Susan French, a prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division in Washington, D.C., told jurors that the Calimlims’ stance that they wanted to help, not exploit, an impoverished Filipino woman was “bogus” and “preposterous.”

If they wanted to help her and her family, why didn’t they pay her a U.S. minimum wage? French asked.

Elnora Calimlim testified that Irma Martinez was paid $1,800 a year for the first 10 years and $4,800 a year thereafter.

Brown said those wages, while “peanuts” in the U.S., were worth much more in pesos to the Martinez family. With the wages, they bought a sturdier home, land to farm, farming tools, medicine and education for their children.

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