Indian Americans Vishnubhai Chaudhari, 50, and Leelabahen Chaudhari, 44, of Kimball, Nebraska, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of alien harboring for financial gain.
According to documents filed in court, the couple 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.
During that time, the couple required that the victim work long hours, for all seven days of the week at the motel and perform manual labor including cleaning rooms, shoveling snow and doing the laundry.
Though they promised the victim that they would pay him, they never did and rather claimed that the victim owed them money.
The couple also restricted the actions of the victim as they isolated him and verbally abused him.
Vishnubhai also threatened to find the victim if he ever left the motel and Leelabahen regularly assaulted the victim, including on one occasion where she slapped him on the 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.
The couple’s sentencing is scheduled for March 19, 2018 and may face a possible sentence of up to 18 months in prison and is expected to be removed from the United States thereafter.
They were also told to pay the victim $40,000 in restitution.
“Motivated by their greed, the defendants violated the immigration laws and exploited a vulnerable individual who lacked immigration status. The Department of Justice will use its resources to proactively prosecute persons who, like the defendants, unlawfully victimize others for their own monetary profit,” said Acting Assisting Attorney General Gore of the Civil Rights Division.
“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. This case is a testament that such conduct will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted in the District of Nebraska,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Robert C. Stuart of the District of Nebraska.
“Human trafficking is the modern world’s 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’s special agents, our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nebraska, and the Department of Justice, who made these guilty pleas possible,” said Special Agent in Charge Alex Khu of HSI St. Paul.