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Indian American Couple Convicted for Forced Labor of Immigrant Relative at Gas Station and Convenience Store

Indian American Couple Convicted for Forced Labor of Immigrant Relative at Gas Station and Convenience Store

  • Harmanpreet Singh and Kulbir Kaur of Chesterfield, Virginia, forced the victim to provide labor and services at their store, including working as the cashier, preparing food, cleaning and managing store records.

An Indian American couple has been found guilty of conspiracy to commit forced labor, forced labor, harboring for financial gain, and document servitude in connection with their operation of a gas station and convenience store in North Chesterfield, Virginia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a press release. 

Harmanpreet Singh, 30, and Kulbir Kaur, 42, forced the victim — Singh’s cousin, to provide labor and services at Singh’s store, including working as the cashier, preparing food, cleaning, and managing store records, the press release said, evidence presented at trial. Singh and Kaur used various coercive means, including confiscating the victim’s immigration documents and subjecting the victim 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.

In 2018, Singh and Kaur enticed the victim, then a minor, to travel to the United States with false promises of helping enroll him in school. After arriving here, the defendants took his immigration documents and immediately put him to work. They also left the victim at the store to sleep in a back office for days at a time on multiple occasions, limited his access to food, refused to provide medical care or education, used surveillance equipment to monitor the victim both at the store and in their home, refused his requests to return to India and made him overstay his visa. 

The evidence further showed that Singh pulled the victim’s hair, slapped and kicked him when he requested his immigration documents back and tried to leave, and on three different occasions threatened the victim with a revolver for trying to take a day off and for trying to leave.

“The defendants exploited the victim’s trust and his desire to attend school in the United States, and then inflicted physical and mental abuse against him, all so they could keep him working for their profit,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Human trafficking is a disgraceful and unacceptable crime, and this verdict should send the very clear message that the Justice Department will investigate and vigorously prosecute these cases to hold human traffickers accountable and bring justice to their victims.”

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According to U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber for the Eastern District of Virginia, Singh and Kaur “engaged in an egregious bait-and-switch, luring the victim with false promises of an education in the United States and instead subjecting him to grueling hours, degrading living conditions and a litany of mental and physical abuse.”

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 8. Singh and Kaur face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, up to five years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000, and mandatory restitution for the forced labor charge. 

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