NEW YORK – An Indian couple, Vishnubhai Chaudhari, 50, and Leelabahen Chaudhari, 44, who are living illegally in Kimball, Nebraska, have been sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison after both pleaded guilty on December 18, 2017, to alien harboring for financial gain and conspiracy to harbor an alien, according to an investigation launched by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The couple has agreed to return back to India after their prison sentence and pay a fine of $40,000 in restitution, to the victim, according to a press release.
According to court records, the defendants admitted to conspiring to harbor the victim, who was also an illegal alien from India, at a Super 8 Motel in Kimball between October 2011 and February 2013, during which time, the defendants required the victim to work long hours every day at the motel and perform manual labor including cleaning rooms, shoveling snow and doing the laundry.
Although the couple promised to pay the victim, they never did and instead claimed to apply the victim’s earned pay to a debt the victim owed and also restricted his movement, isolated him and verbally abused him.
Court records also state that Vishnubhai Chaudhari even threatened the victim if he ever left the business while Leelabahen Chaudhari regularly assaulted him, including on one occasion when she slapped his face several times because he had failed to clean a bathtub to her standards.
The victim eventually escaped with the help of a motel guest and local law enforcement.
“Human trafficking is the modern-day version of enslaving another person for profit. That is what these individuals have done to this victim. I’m proud of the work accomplished by HSI special agents, our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nebraska, and the Department of Justice,” said Special Agent in Charge Tracy Cormier of HSI St. Paul.
“Today’s sentence, and the restitution awarded to the victim, sends a clear message that the Justice Department will use its full resources to prosecute defendants like this one who motivated by their greed violate our immigration laws and exploit a vulnerable individual who lacked immigration status,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
“This case is a reminder that labor exploitation occurs in the United States, not just overseas, and federal law targets those who profit from human trafficking and related crimes. This case is a testament that such conduct will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted in the District of Nebraska,” said U.S. Attorney Joe Kelly for the District of Nebraska.