NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Queens woman has been charged with allegedly holding two children captive and forcing them to work as slaves inside her home for six years, authorities said Tuesday.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said 42-year-old Sook Yeong Park of Flushing was arraigned Saturday on charges of labor trafficking, third-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child.
“The defendant lives on a quiet, tree-lined Queens street with neat brick veneer homes that offered no clues to the horrors that she allegedly made her two young victims endure beginning when they were 9 and 11 in age,” Brown said in a statement.
It began in 2010 when Brown said the two victims, a girl who is now 16 and her brother, now 14, were brought to the U.S. from South Korea by one of Park’s relatives who brought the teens to Park’s home.
Brown said she then confiscated the siblings’ passports and moved to another location.
Soon after, the girl was forced to work for Park almost every day after school for nearly 10 hours doing housework and was forced to give Park back and foot massages, manicures and pedicures, Brown said. In one instance, Park allegedly made the teen give her a five-hour massage while she watched TV.
“I always see the girl taking out the garbage and only her doing stuff outside,” one neighbor told CBS2’s Dave Carlin.
Starting in April 2013 until 2014, Park made the girl work at a Queens grocery store two days a week and then forced her to turn over her wages to Park, Brown said.
From September 2014 through January 2016, she made the girl work several days a week at another grocery store on Northern Boulevard as well as other stores in New York City several days a week and again, forced her to turn over her pay, Brown said.
Starting in August 2015, the boy was also required to work at a grocery store at least one day a month and turn over all his wages to Park, Brown said.
The children were allegedly told by Park that they had to work to pay for their expenses because their mother wasn’t sending over any money from South Korea, according to authorities.
During the six-year period, Park allegedly forced the girl to sleep on the floor in a small closet with one blanket and no mattress while her brother slept on a bedroom floor, also with only one blanket and no mattress.
Park also allegedly beat the children routinely with objects, slapped them, kicked them and stepped on their legs for not obeying her orders, Brown said.
In one instance in November of last year, Brown said Park scratched the girl with a nail clipper because the manicure and pedicure the teen gave her was not up to her standards.
Earlier this month, Park allegedly got angry with the girl and cut off her hair and kicked her in the head, causing swelling and pain, authorities said.
The girl was also forced to miss school on occasion to help clean the house, prosecutors said. At one point, the girl missed school for nearly a month in 2015 so she could work in the house, Brown said.
According to the criminal charges, Park would also not allow the siblings to have any contact with their parents in South Korea. Last week was the first time the girl had spoken to her mother in three years, Brown said.
The alleged abuse finally came to light when a Francis Lewis High School assistant principal noticed bruises on the girl’s legs and called police, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.
The assistant principal did not stop there either, showing up at the house to get the children’s passports and making sure the kids received their most recent paychecks, Carlin reported.
The school’s principal told CBS2 “School staff acted immediately and followed protocol. The safety and security of students is our top priority.”
“The school, they did right by saying ‘oh what’s going on,’ questioning them and everything,” said neighbor Alexandra Toledo.
Neighbors were also shocked by the allegations.
“Who would know that? You can’t see from the inside of the house,” Mona, who lives next door, told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.
“You would never know, you’d have to be a clairvoyant,” Leon, who lives two doors down, said.
“I think it’s horrible,” said Olga.
“It shouldn’t be happening anywhere,” said Grace Fung.
Park has been released on $2,500 cash bail and is due back in court on Feb. 16. She faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.