An Italian consulate clerk and his Brazilian wife were sentenced in federal court in San Francisco today after pleading guilty last month to the misdemeanor charge of using an unauthorized document for a Brazilian woman to work as the couple’s servant.
Giuseppe Penzato, 56, and his wife Kesia Penzato, 34, of San Francisco, both appeared in court late this morning, where they were sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to pay $13,000 to the unnamed victim by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen.
Both declined to comment in court at their sentencing. Kesia Penzato was using a Portuguese translator during the proceedings.
The sentencing came after a plea agreement was made on April 17 in which the Penzatos admitted to using a document that was not legally authorized because it was a visa application that said the woman would be working only for the couple.
The woman also worked for a second employer, Italian Vice Consul Marcello Curci, according to an affidavit filed with a 2011 criminal complaint.
Originally the couple was charged with felony counts of obtaining false labor by means of threats, force or restraint and conspiring to obtain false labor from the woman during a three-month span when she worked for them as a housekeeper in late 2009.
The heavier counts, levied in a federal criminal complaint in 2011 and then a grand jury indictment in 2012, were dropped as a result of the plea agreement.
The Penzatos were arrested on the original charges on June 24, 2011, when Giuseppe Penzato worked as an administrative clerk for the Italian consulate in San Francisco.
According to the affidavit, it was alleged that the couple violated labor and human rights when they forced the woman to work for little pay for 60 hours per week after promising better working conditions.
The Penzatos said in a 2011 court filing that they denied the charges of abuse and charged that the woman was trying to find a way to live in the U.S.
A civil lawsuit was also filed against the Penzatos in federal court in San Francisco in 2010.
That suit, with similar allegations of abusive working conditions, is still pending, according to Jane Doe’s attorneys Lisa Nguyen and Cindy Liou.
Chen acknowledged that there is a broader set of issues that should be litigated as part of the civil case and that today’s sentencing was based solely on the charge of the violated working terms.
Liou and Nyguyen requested the judge reconsider an expanded restitution to the victim, however that request was denied.
“The old charges are no longer at issue,” Chen said in court. “The charges now have to do with identification documents.”
Judge Chen accepted the plea agreement in court this morning, and did not modify the terms of the agreement between defense lawyers Josh Cohen and Gail Shifman and Assistant U.S. Attorney Owen Martikan.
The Penzatos faced a possible maximum sentence of one year in prison.
Instead the terms of their five-year probation include allowance of random searches and no contact with the victim and her family with the exception of legal counsel for the ongoing civil case.
Sasha Lekach, Bay City News