A Chilean nanny has filed a damning lawsuit claiming that an Upper East Side couple forced her into indentured servitude, denying her food and medication. Felicitas del Carmen Villanueva Garnica, 50, claims she was the virtual slave of socialite couple Malu Custer Edwards, 28, and Micky Hurley, 35. She claims she was brought to America with an illegal passport “under false pretenses and for the purpose of unlawfully compelling her to care for their young children.”
Villanueva, who started working for the couple in Chile in December 2010, says the couple promised her a $10 an hour paycheck, health insurance, medical care, food, clothes and lodging if she came to America with them in 2011. Once they got here, she says she was only paid $800 monthly, equal to just $2 per hour.
Even worse, Villanueva claims she was berated, belittled, told not to speak to anyone outside the family, and ordered never to leave the house. She says Hurley would lock her in the room with their three children, and Villanueva “sometimes ended up falling asleep on the floor of whatever room they were locked in." “He would close the door and say, ‘Stay there until I say so,’ ” she says in the suit.
She also claims the children were violent toward her, repeatedly hitting her and once slamming a refrigerator door on her head. “In Chile, they behaved very nicely. When we came to the US, that’s when the situation changed completely. I honestly didn’t know. I didn’t even imagine it,” she said. She also claims the family wouldn't let her get her medication for hypertension.
After being in their employment for two months in NYC, Villanueva tried to leave, but Edwards allegedly refused, telling her she had signed a contract. “They brought me here to mistreat me,” Villanueva told The Post. “They were telling me I don’t have any rights of any sort.”
The couple, who were featured in pieces for NY Magazine and The Observer, deny the allegations. “The claims are completely without merit and will be fully refuted in court,” said their lawyer, Robin Alperstein.