PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — A United Arab Emirates military officer accused of keeping an unpaid servant while studying at the Naval War College in Rhode Island can be released on $100,000 bond but must stay mostly confined to his home, a federal judge said Wednesday.
The order came two days after authorities arrested Col. Arif Mohamed Saeed Mohamed Al-Ali at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where he had boarded a nonstop flight to his home country. At his arraignment last week, Al-Ali had been released on his own recognizance and ordered not to leave Rhode Island unless taking a trip with his class at the war college.
Besides issuing the $100,000 surety order, the judge said Al-Ali must stay at his home except when he has to travel to court, his lawyer's office or the war college, which offers graduate-level military education to U.S. and foreign militaries. The judge also ordered Al-Ali to wear a GPS monitoring device.
Al-Ali has pleaded not guilty to charges he lured a Filipino servant to the U.S., failed to pay her and kept her confined in his house. Prosecutors say the woman — identified as Elizabeth Cabitla Ballesteros in a lawsuit brought on her behalf against Al-Ali and his wife — eventually escaped and is now in hiding.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spotted Al-Ali's name on a passenger manifest late Monday, after he bought his ticket at the airport, and moved to arrest him for violating the conditions of his release.
Al-Ali's wife and five children, whose tickets were booked in advance, initially got off the plane with him, but then boarded it again and left the U.S, according to Jim Martin, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Rhode Island.
Robert C. Corrente, Al-Ali's defense attorney, said his client had admitted to violating the conditions of his release. But, he said, the colonel had traveled to New York to see off his family and only decided at the last minute to go with them.
"He was saying goodbye to his family and got swept up in the moment," Corrente said. "But on balance — looking at Col. Al-Ali's career as a whole, looking at his standing and his position — it was very much an isolated and aberrant incident."
Federal prosecutors think Al-Ali bought his ticket at the airport because he knew that reserving one in advance might draw the attention of customs officials, Martin said. He said prosecutors believe Al-Ali was likely in possession of his passport last week when his attorneys told a judge they believed it was in the custody of Emirati embassy officials in Washington.
Corrente contested that version of events. After his arraignment, Al-Ali had asked the embassy to send him his passport so he could give it to the authorities in Rhode Island this week, Corrente said. He said Al-Ali keeps his passport with him generally when in the U.S. and therefore had it with him at the airport Monday.
Al-Ali had told federal authorities who interviewed him in February regarding the Filipino housemaid that he "didn't need this" and should buy a ticket to go back to his home country, Martin said. (AP)