"I don't know how much more animalistic type of behaviour you can get"
A US Indian man has been charged with the abuse of his cousin, who he kept as a slave. Two other men have also been charged.
The 20-year-old student was beaten, forced to conduct menial labour and kept in slavery conditions in Defiance, Missouri.
St Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph McCulloch explained that the student managed to escape captivity on November 29, 2023, running from the home “yelling, screaming for help”.
Mr McCulloch said the victim’s cousin Venkatesh R Sattaru is the “main target” of the investigation.
The 35-year-old faces six felonies, including trafficking for the purposes of slavery and abuse through forced labour.
According to Mr McCulloch, Sattaru would call the other two defendants and instruct them to beat the victim over a livestream.
If the student did not scream loud enough, Sattaru would tell his accomplices to beat him harder.
Mr McCulloch said: “I don’t know how much more animalistic type of behaviour you can get than that.”
The other two defendants are Sravan Penumetcha, aged 23, and Nikhil V Penmatsa, aged 27. Both men have the same address in Defiance.
It was at that home where the alleged forced labour and beatings occurred.
The victim travelled from India to study at Missouri S&T. He initially believed the men would sponsor him for his student visa.
It is alleged that at some point between April and November 2023, Sattaru destroyed his cousin’s passport.
The victim told the authorities he was hardly fed and slept for as little as three hours a night on a concrete floor in an unfinished basement that was monitored by video surveillance.
He was forced to work for Sattaru’s IT company and give him massages.
Mr McCulloch said: “He was never left alone. He was always in the presence of somebody, one of the three defendants here.
“While he was allowed to call his mother back home, he was only allowed to call her in their presence and it was only allowed to be a phone call.
“There was never any video calls, never any FaceTime. That was not allowed.”
The St Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the victim told the authorities that Sattaru is “a wealthy, powerful man in India with political and law enforcement connections”.
Due to this, the victim was scared to speak out against him.
On November 29, a neighbour called the police, requesting a wellness check for the student.
When police arrived, they were initially denied entry into the property. But as officers considered their strategy, the victim ran out of the house.
The victim was covered in bruises and is currently receiving medical treatment for several broken bones and open wounds.
A St Charles detective said the man has been in touch with his family in India.
The detective added: “They’re aware of what’s going on. And they’re aware that he’s in a safe place now and he’s seeking medical treatment.”