An Indian couple in California, United States, was charged with human trafficking, after a man, also an Indian, was found living in a storage room in their liquor store, where he worked 15 hour shifts – seven days a week – slept in a storage room, bathed in a mop bucket, and was never paid, The New York Post reported on Wednesday.
Amarjit and Balwinder Mann were arrested when an Alcoholic Beverage Control inspector found the man in a back room at their store in Gilroy, living in squalid conditions, the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office said in a press release on Monday.
The police said that further investigation revealed that the man had flown from India in 2019 expecting to travel to the US 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. They also threatened him with deportation, the district attorney’s office said.
Besides, 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 statement added.
Prosecutors estimate that the couple stole more than $1,50,000 (Roughly Rs 1.1 crore) in wages from the victims and three other employees while running a profitable business. “The Manns engaged in predatory recruitment of their workers from India and lured them with promises of travel and financial independence,” they said.
In addition to the labor human trafficking charge, the couple also face charges for witness intimidation and wage theft involving four employees, The Mercury News reported.
“Slavery officially was abolished in 1865,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “Tragically, we are seeing examples of it in 2020.”