15 May 2007

Slavery is alive and well on Long Island

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) -- Two Indonesian women, hired as domestic help, were virtual prisoners in a Long Island household, whose wealthy owners refused to pay them, beat them and kept them from leaving the house for five years, federal prosecutors said today.
Authorities said they uncovered the abuse after one of the women was found by police wandering outside a coffee shop on Sunday morning, wearing only pants and a towel emblazoned with “Property of the Ritz Carlton”. Oh, how fetch!

Varsha Sabhnani, 35, and her husband Mahender Sabhnani, 51, were facing arraignment in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, Long Island on charges they kept the two women against their will since 2002.

A federal complaint alleged the couple, who live in East Muttontown (thanks for mutton) -- a small north shore community in Nassau County -- kept the two women in their home as domestic servants, barring them from leaving the house for any reason other than to bring trash to the curb. The couple ran a perfume business out of their home, authorities said. Ooooh, I smell a scandal !

The women, who were identified in court papers as "Samirah'' and "Nona,'' said they were promised payments of about $200 a month, but federal prosecutors said they were never given money directly. One of the victim's daughters living in Indonesia was sent $100 a month, prosecutors said.

The women legally arrived in the United States on visas in 2002; the Sabhnanis then confiscated their passports and refused to let them leave their home, authorities said.

The women were subjected to beatings, scalding water thrown on them, forced to repeatedly climb up and down stairs and take as many as 30 showers in three hours (sounds good to me!) -- all as punishment for misdeeds. In one case, one of the women was forced to eat 25 hot chili peppers at one time. Was Joe Rogan behind this?

One of the women also told authorities she was cut behind her ears with a small pocket knife (ok, that is not cool) and both were forced to sleep on mats in the kitchen. They were fed so little, they claimed, that they were forced to steal food and hide it from their "captors.'' Wow, this is like that show, Survivor!

The case unraveled on Sunday morning when one of the women was found roaming outside a Starbucks in Syosset. Employees of gave the woman a jacket and some food and called police. Free food from Starbucks? Howard Schultz is gonna have some baristas decapitated now, nice work guys!

Authorities executing a search warrant at the Sabhnani home on Coachman Place later that day found the second woman hiding in a 3-foot-by-3-foot closet under a staircase leading to the basement.

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