Kentucky couple arrested for harboring and employing illegal immigrants from India

Couple, also Indian, made them work long hours for little pay.

By Deepak Chitnis

An Indian American husband and wife in Kentucky have been arrested under allegations of bringing, hiding, and employing illegal immigrants from India and subjecting them to unfair working conditions.

Amrutlal and Dakshaben Patel were arrested on Monday by the Lexington Police Department after an investigation uncovered that the couple had brought at least four workers to the US from India illegally, was housing them in a hidden room in their home, and was employing them at one of the Patels’ four Subway restaurants around the city.

Although the illegal employment situation allegedly began back in September of 2012, police were only alerted about the potential human trafficking situation in August, when a manager at one of the Patel’s Subway restaurants called the police to complain about the working conditions.

The police eventually discovered that the Patels were forcing the illegal employees to work very long hours for very little pay, apparently because they knew the employees’ illegal status prevented them from complaining to the authorities. The immigrants were also working towards paying off a debt owed to the Patels for bringing them to the US, which likely kept them from notifying police about the often inhumane working and living conditions they were subjected to.

According to the Kentucky Herald-Ledger,  the room all four undocumented immigrant workers were housed in would be locked at night, preventing the four from getting out, and that the Patels would make them all work even when they were ill. They also were periodically denied him food and were even beaten on occasion.

After the Patels were arrested at their home, law enforcement officials raided one of their Subway restaurants, located on East Main Street in Lexington. Three of the workers were also arrested and turned over to immigration officials: Rohit Joshi, Sushilaben Patel, and Rakesh Patel.

The case is reminiscent of one that occurred in 2008, when Indian American couple Mahender and Varsha Sabhnani were arrested and jailed after it was discovered that they were hiding two immigrant workers in their house and subjecting them to slavery-like conditions, starving and beating them and at one point even forcing one of the workers to eat their own vomit.

The Patels are currently being held by the authorities, with prosecutors saying that the couple poses and imminent flight risk. Bank account records say that the couple has already sent a significant amount of money back to their families in India, and prosecutors say that if the Patels make bail, the couple could be on the first flight back.

To contact the author, email to deepakchitnis@americanbazaaronline.com

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