Indian American couple in California held guilty of human trafficking

The couple forced their house helps to work 18 hours a day on minimum pay and food.

A couple in Stockton, California, has been found guilty of forcing their housekeepers to work up to 18 hours a day while paying them minimal wages and minimum food. The house helps the couple employed were from India and Nepal. A federal court jury found former Stockton residents Satish Kartan and Sharmistha guilty of forced labor of foreign nationals. On Thursday, following an 11-day trial, the couple was found guilty on all counts.

According to charges, the couple forced the workers to work without pay while also physically abusing them. They also warned the workers of negative repercussions if they tried to leave. The two have left California since then, and are now living in Florida.

They face a statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine amounting $250,000. Their sentencing is scheduled for June 6.

According to documents presented in the court, the couple employed workers from overseas to work as their house helps at their Brook Hollow Development home in Brookside near North Stockton residence.

The two had advertised their requirement for workers on internet and in newspapers in India. The advertisement contained false claims regarding the wages to be paid and the nature of work. They advertised that the workers will be paid $2,000 a month.

But once the workers were hired they were left with limited food and long hours of works. They were also often not paid any wage at all. The workers who had arrived from India and Nepal were kept subdued and threatened from both leaving their jobs and reporting the matter. There are also evidences submitted in the court that suggested that the couple physically abused and created shocking working conditions. While some workers were able to leave within days of their arrival, others suffered for weeks.

Victims flew in from India and Nepal to testify. The couple created an atmosphere where the workers were discouraged to question and were forced to make peace with the treatment meted out to them, they testified. One worker was threatened to kill and told that they would throw her bones in the garbage. The said worker was also made to slam her hands against a gas burner exposing her to first and second-degree burns. The victims lived under a constant atmosphere of fear and deprivation as they were continually threatened to be reported to police or immigration department.

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