Couple faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 and mandatory restitution
An Indian American couple in Virginia has been charged with forcing one of their relatives to provide labor and services at a gas station and convenience store run by them in North Chesterfield.
A federal grand jury returned a seven-count indictment on July 19 charging Harmanpreet Singh, 30, and Kulbir Kaur, 42, with conspiracy to commit forced labor, forced labor, alien harboring for financial gain, and document servitude.
They also face fraud-related charges â€“ conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud and fraudulent transfers in contemplation of bankruptcy, according to a press release from US Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Virginia.
According to the court filings, between March 2018 and May 2021, Singh and Kaur forced Singhâ€™s cousin, to provide labor and services at Singhâ€™s store, including working as the cashier, preparing food, cleaning and managing store records.
The indictment alleges that the defendants used various coercive means, including confiscating the victimâ€™s immigration documents and subjecting the victim to physical abuse, threats of force and other serious harm and, at times, degrading living conditions, to compel him to work extensive hours for minimal pay.
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The indictment further alleges that the defendants harbored the victim after his visa expired for financial gain and committed bankruptcy-related fraud offenses.
The charge of forced labor carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, up to five years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and mandatory restitution.
A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Jessica D. Aber, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Departmentâ€™s Civil Rights Division; and Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBIâ€™s Richmond Field Office made the announcement.
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Assistant US Attorney Avi Panth and Trial Attorney Matthew Thiman of the Civil Rights Divisionâ€™s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit are prosecuting the case.