Motel Managers Plead Guilty to Enslaving Indian Immigrant in U.S.
Vishnubhai Chaudhari and Leelabahen Chaudhari made the victim work long hours for seven days a week at the motel in Nebrasaka, authorities said.
Two motel managers in Western Nebraska, accused of enslaving an Indian migrant, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of alien harboring for financial gain. The victim was kept enslaved for over a year by Vishnubhai Chaudhari, 50, and Leelabahen Chaudhari, 44, of Kimball, Nebraska.
The couple pleaded guilty on Dec.18 in federal court in Omaha, Nebraska, to one count of conspiracy and one count of alien harboring for financial gain, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice. “The duo has admitted to conspiring to harbor the victim, an Indian national who lacked immigration status, at a Super 8 Motel in Kimball, Nebraska, between October 2011 and February 2013,” the statement said.
Their sentencing is scheduled for March 19, 2018. The Chaudharis face a possible sentence of up to 18 months in prison according to their plea agreements. They are also expected to be removed from the United States when they complete their sentences.
The duo has also paid the victim $40,000 in restitution at the change of plea hearing, as a condition of their guilty pleas.
The victim has been identified as M.C. in the court documents. He entered the United States unlawfully in 2011 and was taken into immigration custody in Texas. On Oct. 13, 2011, the Chaudharis arranged for an intermediary to pay his bond and he was released from custody, says the indictment. The duo then arranged for him to travel from Texas to Kimball, a city about 20 miles east of the Wyoming border, Omaha World-Herald reported.
“Human trafficking is the modern world’s version of enslaving another person for profit. That is what these individuals have done to this victim,” Special Agent in Charge Alex Khu of HSI St. Paul said, the statement added.
The Chaudharis were alleged to have made the victim work long hours, seven days a week at the motel. He was asked to perform manual labor, including cleaning rooms, shoveling snow, and doing laundry. Despite promising to pay the victim, they never ended up paying him and claimed to apply that amount to a debt the victim owed.
The duo also restricted the movement of the victim, isolated him, and verbally abused him, according to the statement from the Justice Department. Vishnubhai threatened him that he will find the victim if he ever left the motel, while Leelabahen assaulted the victim regularly. On one occasion, she slapped his face several times because he had failed to clean a bathtub to her standards.
The victim eventually managed to escape with the help of a motel guest and local law enforcement.
“Motivated by their greed, the defendants violated the immigration laws and exploited a vulnerable individual who lacked immigration status,” Acting Assisting Attorney General John M. Gore of the Civil Rights Division said in the statement.
Acting U.S. Attorney Robert C. Stuart of the District of Nebraska said that the case was a gruesome reminder of the fact that forced labor does occur in the United States. “This case is a reminder that forced labor occurs in the United States, not just overseas, and federal law targets those who profit from human trafficking and related crimes,” he said.