Satish Kartan, 43, and his wife, Sharmistha Barai, 38, of Stockton, California, were indicted by a grand jury today for forced labor and conspiracy to commit forced labor. Kartan was also charged with fraud in contacting foreign labor and Barai was also charged with benefiting from forced labor.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert of the Eastern District of California announced the indictment.
According to court documents, between Feb. 21, 2014, and Oct. 3, 2016, Kartan and Barai hired workers from overseas to perform domestic labor in their homes in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Stockton and elsewhere in the United States. In advertisements seeking workers on the internet and India-based newspapers, the defendants made false claims regarding the wages and the duties of employment. Once the workers arrived at the defendants’ residences, Kartan and Barai forced them to work 18 hours a day with limited rest and nourishment. The defendants did not pay wages and used force, physical restraint and coercive conduct to get the workers to perform the labor and services.
The indictment alleges that Kartan and Barai struck one worker on multiple occasions, including one incident where Kartan grabbed her hands and caused them to be burned over the flames of a gas stove. Moreover, the indictment alleges that the defendants failed to pay another worker and told her that they would call the police if she tried to leave. When she was ultimately able to arrange to be picked up from the defendants’ house, Kartan refused to provide her with the access code to the gated community so that her ride could enter.
On Oct. 21, 2016, Kartan and Barai were arrested on a criminal complaint and were released on bond with special conditions that prohibit them from hiring any nonrelatives to perform domestic services or child care work for them. The defendants are also prohibited from directly or indirectly contacting any of their prior domestic workers. Kartan and Barai are scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 21, 2016.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and the Stockton Police Department. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Sigal and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nirav Desai of the Eastern District of California are prosecuting the case, with the assistance of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.
Sacramento is one of six districts designated through a competitive, nationwide selection process as a Phase II Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team, through the interagency ACTeam Initiative of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor. ACTeams focus on developing high-impact human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion through interagency collaboration among federal prosecutors and federal investigative agencies.