Nebraska motel managers plead guilty to enslaving immigrant

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Federal authorities say two motel managers enslaved an Indian immigrant for more than a year in western Nebraska, forcing him to work without pay and abusing him.

Vishnubhai Chaudhari, 50, and Leelabahen Chaudhari, 44, pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to conspiracy and alien harboring for financial gain, the Omaha World-Herald reported .

The two were managers of a Super 8 Motel in Kimball, a town near the Wyoming and Colorado borders.

The unidentified man was taken into immigration custody in Texas after entering the U.S. illegally in 2011. The Chaudharis, who also were living in the U.S. illegally, arranged to pay his bond in October of that year and then set up his transportation to Kimball, court documents and authorities said. The pair then forced the man to clean rooms, wash clothes and do other chores for them seven days a week, investigators said.

The Chaudharis isolated the man from guests at the motel and hid him from police officers in the area. Leelabahen Chaudhari assaulted the victim on a regular basis and Vishnubhai Chaudhari threatened to find the man if he were to escape, the U.S. Justice Department said.

"Human trafficking is the modern world's version of enslaving another person for profit," said Alex Khu, special agent in charge with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations. "That is what these individuals have done to this victim."

Acting U.S. Attorney Robert C. Stuart of the District of Nebraska said: "This case is a reminder that forced labor occurs in the United States, not just overseas."

A motel guest and local law enforcement helped the man escape, the U.S. Justice Department said. The department declined to say what happened to the victim, citing privacy concerns.

The Chaudharis will be sentenced March 19. They've paid the man $40,000 in restitution.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald,

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