The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and Santa Clara County District Attorney announced on Nov. 9 that they have arrested 66-year-old Balwinder Singh Mann and his wife, 66-year-old Amarjit Mann, both of Gilroy, California, on several criminal charges, including labor human trafficking.
The couple allegedly locked a man in their liquor store M&M Liquors located on Westwood Drive in Gilroy, where he worked 15-hour shifts, seven days a week, slept in a storage room, bathed in a mop bucket, and was never paid, according to the press releases from ABC and the DA’s office.
In addition to the labor human trafficking charges, the Mann’s face multiple penal code violations, including wage theft, conspiracy, witness intimidation and failing to maintain workers compensation insurance in the case involving four victims.
According to the charges filed, the couple threatened the victim with deportation if he informed law enforcement of the misdemeanors.
An investigation estimates that the suspects – who own the liquor store and Gavilan Market – had stolen more than $150,000 in wages from the victim and three other employees.
Prosecutors claim the Manns engaged in predatory recruitment of their workers from India and lured them with promises of travel and financial independence.
“Slavery officially was abolished in 1865,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen was quoted saying in the press release. “Tragically, we are seeing examples of it in 2020. My Office will prosecute anyone to the fullest extent of the law who practices this kind of criminal and inhumane exploitation.”
In late February 2020, an ABC inspection discovered the victim at the liquor store. The agent contacted a man who appeared to be living in a small storage room in the back area of the store, according to the press release.
The investigation further concluded that the man had flown from India in 2019 expecting to travel to the U.S. with the couple. Instead, they took his money and passport and put him to work without pay or a key to leave the liquor store at night.
Three other men – two who worked at the liquor store and one who worked at the market across the street – told agents that they worked marathon hours and were paid a pittance. One said he had no idea about the concept of a minimum wage, the press release said.