Indian-American couple found guilty of mistreating Nepali workers in US
A former Stockton couple convicted in a human trafficking case faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for physically abusing, exploiting and threatening workers they hired from India and Nepal under false pretenses, authorities announced Monday.
After an 11-day trial in federal court, a jury on Thursday convicted Satish Kartan, 45, and his wife, Sharmistha Barai, 40, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento.
The married couple was found guilty of conspiracy to obtain forced labor and two counts of obtaining forced labor. Kartan also was found guilty of fraud in foreign labor contracting.
“These defendants exploited one victim after another, using them to labor in their home, failing to pay wages and depriving them of basic human rights,” U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott said in the news release.
From February 2014 through October 2016, Kartan and Barai hired people from overseas to do domestic work in their Stockton home.
Federal prosecutors said the Stockton couple made false claims about wages and work duties in advertisements seeking workers online and in India-based newspapers.
After the workers arrived in Stockton, Kartan and Barai forced them to work 18 hours a day while depriving the workers of sleep and food, according to the prosecutors. They said few of the workers were paid a wage.
The defendants kept the workers from leaving their jobs “by threatening them, by creating an atmosphere of fear, control, and disempowerment,” according to the news release. Several workers also were threatened that attempts to leave their jobs would be reported to police of immigration officials.
Sean Ragan, Special Agent in Charge of the Sacramento FBI Field Office, said Kartan and Barai did more than simply fail to pay victims for their work.
“They deprived (the workers) of their dignity and robbed them of their federally protected civil rights,” Ragan said in the news release.
Some of the workers who said they were victimized by the Stockton couple flew from India and Nepal to testify in the trial.
The abuse became worse when a workers pushed back or wanted to leave. The prosecutors said the couple at times hit or burned the domestic workers.
The defendants hit one worker on multiple occasions, according to prosecutors. Testimony in the trial indicated that Barai backhanded the worker across her face for talking back, and slammed her hands down on a gas stove, which resulted in first- and second-degree burns on her hands. The prosecutors said Barai also threatened to kill the worker and throw her bones in the garbage.
Kartan and Barai are scheduled to be sentenced June 6. The maximum sentence they each face also includes a potential $250,000 fine.
“Human trafficking is a disgraceful and unacceptable crime,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division said in the news release. “The defendants in this case took advantage of overseas workers, forcing them to work without pay, physically abusing them, and threatening negative repercussions if they tried to leave.”
Published on 19 March 2019
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