"human trafficking and forced labour will not be tolerated"
US Indian woman Sharmistha Barai, aged 40, of California, has been jailed for 15 years for forced labour violations.
She and her husband Satish Kartan were convicted of conspiracy to obtain forced labour and two counts of obtaining forced labour by a federal jury on March 14, 2019.
Kartan will be sentenced on October 22, 2020.
According to Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, the couple compelled the victims into servitude for up to 18 hours a day, with minimal pay and through intimidation, threats and violence.
He added that it was an unconscionable violation of the victim’s individual rights, freedom and dignity.
He said: “The sentence imposed today sends a strong message that human trafficking and forced labour will not be tolerated in the United States.”
Between February 2014 and October 2016, Kartan and Barai hired workers from overseas to perform domestic labour jobs at their home in Stockton.
Investigators said that the couple had put up ads on the internet and in India-based newspapers. They contained false claims of wages and employment conditions.
Once the workers arrived at their home, the couple compelled them to work up to 18 hours a day with limited rest and nourishment.
Few of them were paid any wages. The couple prevented the workers from leaving and coerced them to continue working.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said the US Indian woman and her husband threatened the victims “by creating an atmosphere of fear, control, and disempowerment, and at times by physically hitting or burning them”.
The DOJ added:
“When a victim resisted or expressed a desire to leave, the threats and abuse became worse.”
US Attorney McGregor W Scott, of the Eastern District of California, said at the sentencing hearing on October 5, 2020:
“The defendants’ horrendous conduct, done in the privacy of their home, was publicly exposed during the trial.
“One by one the victims told their stories of the brutality they experienced: long hours of labor, inadequate food, and physical assault.
“Today’s sentence sends a clear message to others that systematic brutality against vulnerable victims will not be tolerated.”
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband added:
“The United States abolished slavery and involuntary servitude more than 150 years ago.
“Yet, inhuman forced labour and deprivations of liberty and dignity persist because human traffickers are modern-day slave masters who endeavour to exploit their fellow human beings for profit and other gruesome purposes.”