HOUSTON: A wealthy US woman has been arrested for keeping an illegal immigrant from India in a "forced labour situation" that included her working 17 hours a day and sleeping in a walk-in closet.
Annie George, 39, and her husband, who died in a plane crash in 2009, kept their domestic help in a "forced labour situation" in their 30,000 sq ft mansion in Albany for nearly six years, according to court documents.
The worker from Kerala, who has been identified as 'VM', was paid about 85 cents an hour after initially being promised $1,000 a month.
It is estimated she received around $29,000 during the entire time that she worked at the 12-acre estate, while she should have been paid at least $206,000.
Acting on a tip received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Centre, federal immigration agents last year removed the servant from the George estate, which has a helicopter pad, an indoor swimming pool, 15 fireplaces, marble flooring, a four-story solarium, 24-karat gold gilded ceilings, a glass elevator, and other luxurious features.
Under questioning, the servant, who entered the US on a non-immigrant visa in 1998 to work for the family of a UN employee, told federal agents that she received no holiday or sick pay while employed by the Georges, nor was she afforded any dental or medical treatment.
She also had to sleep on the floor in a closet in a bedroom shared by the family's three daughters, the complaint alleges, because "Annie George required that VM be near the children at night."
Investigators said that after VM was removed last year from the mansion, George spoke three times with the woman's son in India.
During one telephone call, George suggested that the "son tell his mother to tell authorities that she was a relative of George's family and was only staying at George's house as a guest."
During the conversation, which the son recorded, George said: "If she says anything about working, it would become a big crime. They'll start adding up all the taxes and everything, for all the time."
George appeared before a federal magistrate on Wednesday.
She was charged with encouraging and inducing an illegal alien to reside in the US. She was released without bond.