An Indian-American woman from California has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for forced labour violations.
Sharmistha Barai and her husband Satish Kartan were found guilty of conspiracy to obtain forced labour and two counts of obtaining forced labour by a federal jury on March 14, 2019, after an 11-day trial.
Kartan will be sentenced on October 22.
"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," said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband.
The Indian American couple compelled the victims into servitude for up to 18 hours a day, with minimal pay, through intimidation, threats and violence, he said, adding this is an unconscionable violation of the victims' individual rights, freedom and dignity.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, between February 2014 and October 2016, Kartan and Barai hired workers from overseas to perform domestic labour in their home in Stockton, California.
In advertisements seeking workers on the internet and India-based newspapers, they made false claims about the wages and conditions of employment.
Once the workers arrived at their residence, Kartan and Barai compelled them to work up to 18 hours a day with limited rest and nourishment, federal prosecutors alleged.
Few of them were paid any wages. The couple kept the domestic workers from leaving and coerced them to continue working by threatening them, by creating an atmosphere of fear, control, and disempowerment, and at times by physically hitting or burning them.
"When a victim resisted or expressed a desire to leave, the threats and abuse became worse," the Department of Justice added.