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"Sluggy"
May 16th, 2007, 11:39 AM
Feds: Millionaire Couple on L.I. Abused Their Servants


CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) -- In what a prosecutor described as a case of "modern-day slavery,'' a millionaire couple were arraigned Tuesday on federal charges that they kept two Indonesian women as virtual prisoners in their swank home for more than five years, beating and abusing them and paying them almost nothing.

1010 WINS AUDIO: Mona Rivera Reports

Authorities uncovered the abuse after one of the women was found by police wandering outside a doughnut shop on Sunday morning wearing only pants and a towel.

The women, prosecutors said, were subjected to beatings, had scalding water thrown on them and were forced to repeatedly climb up and down stairs and take as many as 30 showers in three hours -- all as punishment for perceived misdeeds. In one case, prosecutors said, one of the women was forced to eat 25 hot chili peppers at one time.


Affidavit for Search Warrant

One of the women also told authorities she was cut behind her ears with a pocket knife and both were forced to sleep on mats in the kitchen. They were fed so little, they claimed, that they were forced to steal food and hide it from their captors.

The Long Island homeowners, Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 35, and her husband, Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani, 51, entered not guilty pleas at their arraignment in U.S. District Court in Central Islip and were ordered held pending a Thursday bail hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Demitri Jones, who called the allegations "truly a case of modern-day slavery,'' had asked that the couple be held without bail, but Magistrate A. Kathleen Tomlinson agreed to hold a bail hearing. The judge also ordered the couple, who are naturalized U.S. citizens from India, to surrender their U.S. passports.

Attorney Charles A. Ross, who represents Varsha Sabhnani, said the couple were "upstanding citizens'' and insisted ``this is not a case of human trafficking.'' He also said that the couple traveled extensively and that the two Indonesian women were free to leave whenever they wished. Alexandra Tseitlin, who represents Mahender Sabhnani, described the couple as "law-abiding citizens.''

A federal complaint alleged the couple, who live in East Muttontown, a tony north shore community in Nassau County, kept the two women in their home as domestic servants, barring them from leaving the house for any reason other than to take trash to the curb. The couple ran a perfume business out of their multimillion-dollar home and have factories in Asia, authorities said.

Besides their Long Island home, the couple also have a residence in Manhattan and $1.8 million in the bank, prosecutors said.

The two women, identified in court papers as Samirah and Nona, said they were promised payments of $200 and $100 a month, but federal prosecutors said they were never given money directly. One of the victims' daughters living in Indonesia was sent $100 a month, prosecutors said.

The women legally arrived in the United States on B-1 visas in 2002; the Sabhnanis then confiscated their passports and refused to let them leave their home, authorities said.

The case unraveled on Sunday, when one of the women was found roaming outside a doughnut shop in Syosset. Employees of the restaurant gave the woman a jacket and some food and called police.

Authorities executing a search warrant at the Sabhnani home later that day found the second woman hiding in a 3-foot-by-3-foot closet under a staircase leading to the basement.

*JR*
May 17th, 2007, 01:30 PM
Sad that in almost 26 hours, nobody here posted ITT. :rolleyes: If guilty, the couple should suffer the same treatment, but probably won't. And I wonder how their Asian perfume factory workers are treated.

Maryamator
May 17th, 2007, 02:00 PM
oh my god:tape: make the couple sufer as much as the poor women did!!

Helen Lawson
May 17th, 2007, 09:51 PM
I know some people who work as slaves, but it's more subtle than that above and there's no physical abuse.