New York couple keeps Indonesian women as slaves

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Map of Long Island, New York highlighting the counties.

In Long Island, New York, a millionaire couple has been arrested after keeping two Indonesian women as slaves for at least five years.

According to federal prosecutors, the two women were beaten and tortured by Nassau County couple Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 35, and her husband Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani, 51, and were kept from leaving the house unless it was to take out the trash. Both women are legal immigrants who migrated to the United States back in 2002. Since receiving the jobs, both women had their passports taken away from them by the Sabhnanis.

"No one would ever think that human beings were being brought into the United States and held for slave labor, and beaten, and tortured in a beautiful mansion right here in one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods on Long Island," said Demetri Jones, a prosecutor in the case.

Authorities say that the women had scalding hot water poured on them, were forced to take as many as 30 showers in a three hour period, were made to run up and down flights of stairs, and one of the women was forced to eat "25 extremely hot chilli peppers." All the "punishments" were in response to not completing work properly. The women also said that they had to hide food from "their captors" because the Sabhnani's did not feed them enough.

Police were alerted to the situation when they found one of the women walking around the city wearing only a towel and a pair of pants.

Both women were promised by the couple to receive at least USD$100 to USD$200 for their work, but according to prosecutors, the couple paid only USD$100 a month, which was sent to one of the women's daughters who lives in Indonesia.

The women are only identified as Samirah and Nona.

The couple will face charges of keeping people against their will. They are reported to be running a perfume business from their Long Island home.