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California couple accused of forcing Indian immigrant into servitude at liquor store

Man found living in store in back room
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Posted at 10:16 AM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 10:16:53-05

A California couple faces allegations of labor human trafficking and wage theft after an employee was reportedly found living at one of their liquor stores in “unhealthy conditions” and being forced to work without getting paid.

The couple, Balwinder Singh Mann and Amarjit Mann, were arrested after an investigation by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) uncovered violations involving four employees.

The investigation found the couple “harbored at least one of the victims in the back of the store where the individual slept on a mattress,” according to the release from investigators.

The Mann’s own two liquor stores in Gilroy, a town about 30 miles south of San Jose.

The couple made the employee work 15-hour shifts, seven days a week, and was never paid, according to the Santa Clara District Attorney. Investigators say the employee slept in a storage room and bathed in a mop bucket.

The employee was identified after an ABC inspection in February. According to the Santa Clara District Attorney, the agent contacted the employee, and noted a mattress lying over milk crates in a back room, with an office desk filled with clothes and cooking pans.

Investigators say labor human trafficking is a “modern-day form of slavery” where the victim is forced, coerced or tricked into involuntary labor.

The District Attorney says the investigation concluded the employee had flown from India in 2019, expecting to travel to the U.S. with the Mann’s. Instead, the couple allegedly took his money and passport, and put him to work in their liquor store without the ability to leave.

Three other employees told investigators they worked long hours and were paid nearly nothing. The DA says at least one of the employees had no idea about the concept of a minimum wage.

The investigation estimates the Mann’s stole more than $150,000 in wages from the four victims.