November 11, 2020 11:50:59 am
An Indian-origin couple in California have been arrested on human trafficking charges after they were accused of imprisoning an Indian immigrant in their liquor store and forcing him to work 15-hour shifts without pay.
The man was brought to the United States by Amarjit and Balwinder Mann, both 66, to work in their shop called ‘M&M Liquors’. After an Alcoholic Beverage Control inspection in February, investigators discovered that apart from not being paid, the man was allegedly made to sleep in a small storage closet and bathe in a mop bucket, USA Today reported.
In his tiny room, agents discovered a thin mattress lying atop milk crates, an office desk with clothes kept in its drawers, and pots and pans for cooking on top of it. The investigation found that the couple had taken the man’s passport and money as soon as he arrived in the country and then “put him to work without pay or a key to leave the liquor store at night,” according to the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office.
“Slavery officially was abolished in 1865,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “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.”
The DA’s office alleged that the owners of the liquor store “engaged in predatory recruitment of their workers from India and lured them with promises of travel and financial independence”. Investigators believe that the couple recruited workers from India by promising them travel, accommodation and financial independence.
Investigators also discovered two other men who were working at the store, and one of whom seemed to be unaware of what “minimum wage” even meant. These men, too, worked long hours and were hardly paid.
Apart from human trafficking, the Manns are also facing charges that include witness intimidation and wage theft. Investigators claim that the couple stole an estimated $150,000 in wages from the four men who worked for them, local media reported.
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