Indian-American sentenced to15-plus years for forced labor violations

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Sharmistha Barai, 40, formerly of Stockton, California, was sentenced Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, to 15 years and eight months in prison for forced labor violations.

On March 14, 2019, after an 11-day trial, a federal jury found Barai and her husband Satish Kartan guilty of conspiracy to obtain forced labor and two counts of obtaining forced labor. Kartan is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 22.

“The defendants’ horrendous conduct, done in the privacy of their home, was publicly exposed during the trial,” said U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott of the Eastern District of California said in a press release. “One by one the victims told their stories of the brutality they experienced: long hours of labor, inadequate food, and physical assault. Today’s sentence sends a clear message to others that systematic brutality against vulnerable victims will not be tolerated.”

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial: between February 2014 and October 2016, Kartan and Barai hired workers from overseas to perform domestic labor in their home in Stockton. In advertisements seeking workers on the internet and India-based newspapers, the defendants made false claims about the wages and conditions of employment.

Once the workers arrived at the defendants’ Stockton residence, Kartan and Barai compelled them to work up to 18 hours a day limited rest and nourishment. Few of them were paid any wage. The defendants kept the domestic workers from leaving and coerced them to continue working by threatening them, by creating an atmosphere of fear, control, and disempowerment, and at times by physically hitting or burning them. When a victim resisted or expressed a desire to leave, the threats and abuse became worse.

 

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