An Indian-origin couple has been charged in the US for allegedly subjecting an immigrant, who is their relative, to forced labour and physical abuse at a convenience store they owned.
According to the accusation, Harmanpreet Singh, 30, and Kulbir Kaur, 42, from Virginia used “various coercive means”, including confiscating the victim’s immigration documents and subjecting him to physical abuse, threats of force and other serious harm and, at times, degrading living conditions, to compel him to work extensive hours for minimal pay between March 2018 and May 2021.
They forced the victim to provide labour and services, including working as the cashier, preparing food, cleaning and managing store records, at Singh’s store in North Chesterfield.
The defendants allegedly confiscated the victim’s immigration documents and subjected him to physical abuse, threats and degrading living conditions at a convenience store in North Chesterfield, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a statement.
The victim, who is Singh’s cousin, was not identified by his name.A federal grand jury returned a seven-count indictment on Wednesday charging them with conspiracy to commit forced labour, forced labour, alien harbouring for financial gain, and document servitude, along with fraud-related charges – conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud and fraudulent transfers in contemplation of bankruptcy in connection with the case, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
The indictment further alleges that the defendants harboured the victim after his visa expired for financial gain and committed bankruptcy-related fraud offences.
The charge of forced labour carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, up to five years of supervised release, a fine of up to USD 250,000 and mandatory restitution.
A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.