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March 20, 2018Omaha, NE, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

2 illegal aliens from India each sentenced in Nebraska to a year in federal prison for labor trafficking, harboring illegal alien

OMAHA, Neb. — Two illegal aliens from India, unlawfully residing in southwestern Nebraska, were sentenced to a year in federal prison Monday on felony charges related to labor trafficking.

These sentences resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Vishnubhai Chaudhari, 50, and Leelabahen Chaudhari, 44, both citizens of India unlawfully residing in Kimball, Nebraska, were each sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison after both pleaded guilty on Dec. 18, 2017, to alien harboring for financial gain and conspiracy to harbor an alien.

As part of their plea agreement, they also agreed to a stipulated judicial order of removal to India after they complete their prison sentences. They must also pay the victim $40,000 in restitution as a condition of their guilty pleas.

According to court records, the defendants admitted to conspiring to harbor the victim, who was an illegal alien from India, at a Super 8 Motel in Kimball between October 2011 and February 2013. During that time, the defendants required the victim to work long hours, seven days a week at the motel performing manual labor, including cleaning rooms, shoveling snow and doing laundry. Although the defendants promised to pay the victim, they never did. Instead, they claimed to apply the victim’s earned pay to a debt the victim owed. The defendants further restricted the victim’s movement, isolated him, and verbally abused him. Defendant Vishnubhai Chaudhari also threatened to find the victim if he ever left the business. Defendant Leelabahen Chaudhari regularly assaulted the victim, including on one occasion when she slapped his face several times because he had failed to clean a bathtub to her standards. The victim eventually escaped with the help of a motel guest and local law enforcement.

“Human trafficking is the modern-day version of enslaving another person for profit. That is what these individuals have done to this victim,” said Special Agent in Charge Tracy Cormier of HSI St. Paul. “I’m proud of the work accomplished by HSI special agents, our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nebraska, and the Department of Justice.”

“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 Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

“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. “This case is a testament that such conduct will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted in the District of Nebraska.”

This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Olimpia Michel and Shan Patel of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section and Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Frederick D. Franklin of the District of Nebraska.