Indian American Couple Convicted For Forced Labour In Virginia

The couple faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, up to five years of supervised release, a fine of up to USD 250,000, and mandatory restitution for the forced labor charge.

Indian American arrested for Forced Labour

Following a two-week trial, a federal jury in Virginia has convicted an Indian American couple of conspiracy to commit forced labour, at a gas station and convenience store in the State, a US attorney has said.

The sentencing of Harmanpreet Singh, 30, and Kulbir Kaur, 43, who forced the victim, their cousin, to provide labour and services at their store, including working as the cashier, preparing food, cleaning and managing store records, for May 8. They face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, up to five years of supervised release, a fine of up to USD 250,000 and mandatory restitution for the forced labour charge.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said the Singh couple exploited the victim’s trust and his desire to attend school in the United States, and then inflicted physical and mental abuse against him, all so they could keep him working for their profit.

Singh and Kaur 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 work extensive hours for minimal pay, said the Department of Justice.

“These defendants engaged in an egregious bait-and-switch, luring the victim with false promises of an education in the United States and instead subjecting him to grueling hours, degrading living conditions and a litany of mental and physical abuse,” said US Attorney Jessica D Aber for the Eastern District of Virginia.

“Forced labour and human trafficking are abhorrent crimes that have no place in our society, and I am grateful to our team of prosecutors, agents and support staff for ensuring that justice was done in this case,” Aber said.

In 2018, the defendants enticed the victim, then a minor, to travel to the United States with false promises of helping enrol him in school, federal prosecutors alleged. After arriving in the United States, the defendants took his immigration documents and immediately put him to work.

They also left the victim at the store to sleep in a back office for days at a time 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 court documents, the evidence further showed that Singh pulled the victim’s hair, slapped and kicked him when he requested his immigration documents back and tried to leave, and on three different occasions threatened the victim with a revolver for trying to take a day off and for trying to leave.