Naval officer is ordered to pay ex-worker $1.2m

PROVIDENCE — A naval ­officer from the United Arab Emirates has been ordered to pay $1.2 million to a former ­domestic worker who accused him of imprisoning her and forcing her to work long hours for little pay, although it is ­unclear whether she will ever receive any money.

Colonel Arif Mohamed Saeed Mohamed al-Ali was found to be in default in August for failing to ­appear in court in a lawsuit brought by Elizabeth Ballesteros, who cared for Ali’s family in East ­Greenwich when he was studying at the US ­Naval War College in Newport.

On Wednesday, US District Judge John McConnell ordered Ali to pay Ballesteros for forcing her to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and for what he called outrageous and inhumane conduct, including withholding her passport and threatening her if she tried to leave. The award included $10,000 per day for each of the 84 days that McConnell said Ballesteros was imprisoned and subject to emotional abuse.


Ali was acquitted of related criminal charges during a bench trial before US District Judge Mary Lisi, who said that Ballesteros’s testimony did not ring true. Lisi said she exaggerated when she said she worked long hours cleaning, washing two cars daily, cooking, doing laundry, and ironing.

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But McConnell wrote that he accepted the allegations as true and called her a highly credible witness. ‘‘This court finds that her testimony about the conditions of her employment and her treatment at the hands of Mr. al-Ali was compelling and believable,’’ he wrote. “The emotional toll it had on Ms. Ballesteros was obvious to this court in observing her testimony.’’

Ali’s lawyer withdrew from the case in January, saying Ali did not want to spend more money on the lawsuit.

Since then, letters sent to Ali’s listed address in the UAE have been returned as undeliverable.