Two western Nebraska hotel managers in the country illegally have been sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison, then ordered to leave the country after enslaving their nephew for more than a year.
The Department of Justice reports 50-year-old Vishnubhai Chaudhari and 44-year-old Leelabahen Chaudhari, both of Kimball, have been sentenced in Omaha after pleading guilty earlier to alien harboring for financial gain and conspiracy to harbor an alien.
The two have agreed to pay $40,000 in restitution to the victim and to be deported to India after serving their prison sentences.
According to documents filed in court, the two admitted to forcing their nephew, also an Indian national in the country illegally identified only as M.C., to do menial jobs at the Super 8 in Kimball between October 2011 and February 2013. The defendants required the victim to work long hours, seven days a week at the motel, cleaning rooms, shoveling snow, and doing laundry.
They never paid their nephew. They claimed his pay went toward paying down a debt the victim owed. They restricted his movement, isolated him, and verbally abused him, according to federal prosecutors.
Prosecutors also state Vishnubhai Chaudhari threatened to hunt the victim down if he fled and Leelabahen Chaudhari regularly assaulted the victim. On one occasion, she slapped his face several times when he failed to clean a bathtub to her standards.
A motel guest helped the victim to escape and get him to local law enforcement.
“Today’s sentence, and the restitution awarded to the victim, sends a clear message that the Justice Department will use its full resources to prosecute defendants like this one who motivated by their greed violate our immigration laws and exploit a vulnerable individual who lacked immigration status,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division said in a written statement.
“This case is a reminder that labor exploitation occurs in the United States, not just overseas, and federal law targets those who profit from human trafficking and related crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Joe Kelly for the District of Nebraska in a written statement released by his office. “This case is a testament that such conduct will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted in the District of Nebraska.”
Kimball County Sheriff Harry Gillway said the situation came to light when the nephew confided to the motel guest.
“He told the guest that he was being held against his will and that they had taken his passport and that he was not permitted to leave and they beat him,” Gillway told The Omaha World-Herald in December.
Gillway told the newspaper some deputies met with the man clandestinely. Federal authorities took over the case and helped the nephew escape.