A case of "possible human trafficking" at a Saudi diplomatic compound in Virginia is under investigation, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed to News4.
Homeland Security Special-Agent-in-Charge John Torres, who is leading the probe, said Fairfax County Police responded to a tip Tuesday night citing a possible case of modern slavery.
U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement/Homeland Security Investigations were called to a home in the 6000 block of Orris Street in McLean and -- in the words of a source familiar with the investigation -- "rescued" two women. One woman reportedly tried to flee by squeezing through a gap in the front gate as it was closing.
"In this particular case, what we ended up doing is setting up an arranged time to meet some people. They met us at that time and we took them out of that situation," Torres said.
It's not clear if the women, whom sources say are from the Philippines, called investigators to the home themselves or if someone else did.
The women are now in protective custody.
“We ultimately took those potential victims out of that situation,” Torres said. “They’re safe now, being interviewed by our agents and victim witness coordinators.”
The investigation is in its very early stages and complicated by the possibility that some of those involved may have diplomatic immunity, said a State Department spokesperson.
A 2008 U.S. Government Accountability Office report notes that in previous cases, "...The accused foreign diplomats held full diplomatic immunity and this could not be prosecuted in U.S. courts."
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said Saudi Arabia has been faulted in the past for abuse of a special visa program that allows foreign diplomats to bring household workers into the United States.
"They bring them in; they work them seven days a week; they take their passports away," Wolf said.
The compound -- with three security gates, a guard shack and security staff on foot patrol -- is owned by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to Fairfax County real estate records.
A man outside the gates who said he works for the embassy told News4 the homeowner was at the embassy Wednesday, and vehicles driven in and out of the gates had diplomatic license plates.
“The U.S. State Department is aware of this matter,” said spokesperson Patrick Ventrell. “Diplomatic security is aware of the matter, and we’re working with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, specifically Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
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