A multimillionaire couple who run a world-wide perfume business were indicted on federal slavery charges after a battered domestic servant escaped from their mansion on the “Gold Coast” of Long Island, New York.
“It’s truly a case of modern-day slavery. No one would ever think that human beings were being brought into the United States and held for slave labour, and beaten, and tortured in a beautiful mansion right here in one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods on Long Island,” said Demetri Jones, an assistant US attorney.
The maids’ ordeal allegedly began when they were brought to the United States in 2002 to do housework for Indonesian-born Varsha Sabhnani, and her Indian-born husband, Mahender Sabhnani, both US citizens.
The two servants slept on mats in the kitchen and were forced to work up to 21 hours a day, seven days a week, from 4am to 1am, prosecutors say, and were fed so little that they resorted to hiding morsels above a ceiling panel.When strangers came to the home they were ordered to hide in the basement or a garage, they said. The maids were promised $200 a month in pay but Samirah told authorities that she later learnt that the Sabhnanis sent only half the amount to her daughter in Indonesia. It was not clear if Nona received any money. Both had US visas that had long expired.
Prosecutors allege the two maids suffered harsh punishment over a five-year period for perceived misdeeds such as taking food or being unable to find an article of clothing.
The arrest warrant says Samirah was forced to take as many as 30 ice-cold showers in a row, run up and down a flight of stairs 150 times as fast as she could, and eat at least 25 “extremely hot chilli peppers at one time”.
Punishment was meted out in the laundry room or bathroom with “a rolling pin, bamboo stick and a broomstick”. Samirah “bears highly visible scars that appear to be permanent over much of her body” including “deep, open knife wounds behind her ears”, court papers say.
She showed investigators “a door stained with [her] blood that was the result of an injury sustained during a beating”.
Immigration agents raided the millionaire couple’s home in Mutton-town suburb when their maid Samirah was found wandering half-naked . The maid showed the manager of a do-nut shop her expired Indonesia passport and sobbed: “Home, I want to go home.” Asked where she lived, she pointed towards the couple’s home and said “Master,” making a gesture as though she was getting slapped .