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Indian motel managers enslaved, abused compatriot in the US

Indian motel managers enslaved, abused compatriot in the US

Washington: Two Indian motel managers, including a woman, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and enslaving a compatriot for well over a year, forcing him to work without pay and isolating and abusing him, according to federal authorities.

Vishnubhai Chaudhari, 50, and Leelabahen Chaudhari, 44, pleaded guilty on Monday in federal court in Omaha, Nebraska to one count of conspiracy and one count of alien harbouring for financial gain, a US Department of Justice press release said.

The two, living in the US illegally, were the managers of a Super 8 Motel in Kimball in the Nebraska Panhandle. They forced the man, an Indian national they knew to be in the US illegally, to work seven days a week, cleaning rooms, shovelling snow, doing laundry and other chores.

“Human trafficking is the modern world’s version of enslaving another person for profit,” said special agent in charge Alex Khu of US Homeland Security Investigations. “That is what these individuals have done to this victim.”

The man was identified only as “MC” in court documents.

“This case is a reminder that forced labour occurs in the US, not just overseas,” said acting US Attorney Robert C Stuart of the District of Nebraska, in the release.

MC entered the US unlawfully in 2011 and was taken into immigration custody in Texas. The Chaudharis are expected to be removed from the US once their sentence is complete, according to the indictment.

On October 13 of that year, the Chaudharis arranged for an intermediary to pay his bond and he was released from custody, the indictment says.

They then arranged for his transportation from Texas to Kimball.

The Chaudharis told MC not to communicate with guests at the motel, and concealed him when police officers were around.

The release says Leelabahen “regularly assaulted” the victim, including once where she slapped him several times for failing to clean a bathtub to her liking.

Vishnubhai threatened to find the man if he left the hotel.

The man eventually escaped with the help of a motel guest and local law enforcement, the release said.

The Chaudharis will be sentenced on March 19. They have paid the man $40,000 in restitution, it said.