Indian-American couple sentenced to prison for forcing relative to work at gas station

They used various coercive means, including confiscating the victim's immigration documents and subjecting the victim to physical abuse, threats of force and other serious harm.
Indian-American couple convicted for forced labour.
Indian-American couple convicted for forced labour.

WASHINGTON: A US court has sentenced an Indian-American couple to prison for coercing their relative to work at their gas station and convenience store for over three years by bringing him to the United States on the pretext of helping enrol him in a school.

Harmanpreet Singh, 31, was sentenced to 135 months (11.25 years) in prison and Kulbir Kaur, 43, to 87 months (7.25 years) by the court that also asked them to pay the victim, his cousin, USD 225,210.76 (Rs 1.87 crores approximately) in restitution.

The couple has since divorced.

"The defendants exploited their relationship with the victim to lure him to the United States with false promises that they would help enrol him in school," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said.

"The defendants confiscated the victim's immigration documents and subjected him to threats, physical force and mental abuse to coerce him to work long hours for minimal pay," she said.

"This sentence should send a strong message that such forced labour will not be tolerated in our communities," she added.

US Attorney Jessica D Aber for the Eastern District of Virginia said the defendants preyed on the victim's earnest desire to attain an education and improve his life.

Instead, they deprived him of the most basic human needs and robbed him of his freedom, the attorney said.

The evidence presented at trial demonstrated that in 2018, the defendants enticed the victim, Singh's cousin and then a minor, to travel to the US from India with false promises of helping enrol him in school, the Department of Justice said.

It said that after the victim arrived in the US, the defendants took his immigration documents and instead forced him to provide labour and services at Singh's store for over three years, between March 2018 and May 2021.

Singh and Kaur compelled the victim to work at the store, including cleaning, cooking, stocking and handling the cash register and store records, between 12 and 17 hours a day, nearly every day, for minimal pay, according to the evidence presented during the trial.

They used various coercive means, including confiscating the victim's immigration documents and subjecting the victim to physical abuse, threats of force and other serious harm, and, at times, degrading living conditions to compel him to continue working, the evidence showed.

The couple left the victim at the store to sleep in a back office for days on multiple occasions, limited his access to food, refused to provide medical care or education, used surveillance equipment to monitor the victim both at the store and in their home, refused his requests to return to India and made him overstay his visa, according to the evidence.

The defendants also forced the victim to marry Kaur and used that marriage to threaten to take the victim's family's properties or falsely report him to the police if he left.

The evidence also showed that Singh pulled the victim's hair, slapped and kicked him when he requested his immigration documents back or tried to leave.

On three different occasions, he threatened the victim with a revolver for trying to take a day off and for trying to leave.

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com