A Chilean nanny is accusing an aristocratic family of forcing her into slave-like conditions in their Upper East Side home.
The NY Post reports that Felicitas del Carmen Villanueva Garnica, 50, is suing the socialite couple for allegedly bringing her to America on an illegal passport, paying her less than $2 an hour, and allowing their three children to beat her. Malu Custer Edwards, 28, and Micky Hurley, 35, both deny the allegations.
The former nanny filed suit last week, alleging that the couple enticed her to come with them from Chile to America with promises of a $10 an hour paycheck, health insurance, medical care, food, clothes and lodging. Instead, she says, they paid her $800 a month for working 12 hour days (around $2 an hour) and routinely locked her inside their lavish (though post-war) Upper East Side apartment. When she complained about the money, she says Edwards told her no nannies made more than $700 a month.
Garnica also alleges that one of the children hit her with a chair, while another slammed her head in the fridge so hard that she nearly lost consciousness.
Garnica says she began working for the power couple in Chile in December, 2010, when she was assigned to their family by an employment agency. Both Edwards and Hurley are well-known in Chilean society; according to the Post, Edwards is a descendant of Agustín Edwards McClure, a Chilean diplomat and publisher who led the League of Nations in 1922. Her husband, an interior designer, is related to Chile's founding settlers.
Garnica followed the couple when they decided to move to SoHo so that Edwards could study graphic design at the New School. But Garnica alleges that when they arrived in January, 2011, everything changed. The children grew violent and the couple refused to feed her adequately, although they were regulars at Balthazar and "spent lavishly" on themselves.
Garnica says she tried once on President's Day to escape but the Chilean Consulate was closed. Instead she walked to a cell phone store where a clerk gave her a phone and showed her how to use it. She contacted Safe Horizon, a nonprofit victim's group, but did not leave until a month later, when one of the children allegedly slammed her head in the fridge in March, 2011. According to a New York Magazine profile of the couple, they spent the summer following Garnica's departure traveling to Paris, Antibes, Monaco, Nice, Rome, Florence, Portofino, London, and Ireland with their children.
According to the Post, in July 2011, the state Department of Labor ordered the couple to pay Garnica $6,302 in back wages.
[NYP, photo via Facebook]