- The student was locked in a basement in for seven months, and was forced to do chores, work and endure severe beatings at the hands of his cousin, Venkatesh R. Sattaru, 35, along with Sravan Penumetcha, 23, and Nikhil V. Penmatsa, 27.
Three Indian American men have been arrested and charged for trapping a student from India in their homes in the greater St. Louis area in Missouri and using him as a slave. The 20-year-old Indian student, whose identity is undisclosed, was locked up in a basement for seven months, and “was forced to do chores, work and endure severe beatings at the hands of his cousin, Venkatesh R. Sattaru, 35, along with Sravan Penumetcha, 23, and Nikhil V. Penmatsa, 27,” the St. Louis Dispatch reported.
The student spent time locked inside houses in O’Fallon, Dardenne Prairie, and the unincorporated community of Defiance. The Dispatch report said that Sattaru owns all three houses and was identified by investigators as “the ringleader,” lives in the O’Fallon home with his wife and children. Penumetcha and Penmatsa live in the Defiance home, “where the student was rescued.
“It’s absolutely inhumane and unconscionable that one human being could treat another human being like this,” the Dispatch quoted Joe McCulloch as saying in a N0v. 30 news conference.
The student had come to the U.S. from India last year with hopes of studying at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. “Instead, he was taken to Sattaru’s homes beginning in April and was forced to begin chores around 4:30 a.m., work a full day for Sattaru’s IT company, and then complete a list of evening tasks,” police told the Dispatch.
The student said he was forced to sleep on an unfinished floor without access to a bathroom. He scavenged for scraps in nearby restaurant dumpsters and was beaten with electrical wire, PVC pipe, metal rods, wooden boards, sticks, and a water supply hose for a washing machine. He regularly got three hours of sleep on a concrete floor in a locked basement where Sattaru monitored him with a surveillance camera, the Dispatch reported, citing according to court documents. If he “didn’t complete the tasks properly, he was severely beaten and was forced to strip down naked and was hit all over his body. He was kicked, stomped, and lashed, charges say, and his injuries included previous fractures and breaks that did not heal properly,” the documents added. The student said he was afraid to report the trio because they were wealthy and had powerful connections in India. He said he feared for his safety, as well as his family’s in India.
Police were first called to the home in Defiance around 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 29 to perform a wellness check, after being tipped off by someone “who saw the student at a restaurant, and was concerned because he looked injured and anxious,” the Dispatch said.
Sattaru faces charges of trafficking for slavery, involuntary servitude or forced labor, contributing to human trafficking, first-degree assault, armed criminal action, kidnapping, and abuse through forced labor. Penmatsa and Penumetcha were charged with being accessories to human trafficking, abuse through forced labor, assault, armed criminal action, and kidnapping. Penmatsa is also charged with an additional count of assault. All three were ordered to be held without bond. Their next court dates had not been set as of Nov. 30 evening.