A Gilroy couple has been charged with human trafficking after forcing a man to work 15-hour shifts seven days a week for no pay at their liquor store and then locking him inside the store overnight, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said Monday.
The victim slept in a storage room and bathed in a mop bucket, authorities said.
Amarjit and Balwinder Mann, both 66, allegedly threatened the victim with deportation if he reported them to law enforcement. The Manns have been charged with felony human trafficking, witness intimidation and wage theft involving four victims, the DA’s office said. They face prison time if convicted.
The Manns, owners of M&M Liquors on Westwood Drive in Gilroy, recruited their workers from India with promises of travel and financial independence. Prosecutors estimate the couple stole more than $150,000 in wages from the victim and three other employees.
“Slavery officially was abolished in 1865,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “Tragically, we are seeing examples of it in 2020.”
An Alcoholic Beverage Control inspection first discovered the victim in February. The agents found evidence of a man who appeared to be living in a small storage room in the back area of the store, a red flag for human trafficking, the DA’s office said.
Agents found a thin mattress on top of milk crates, an office desk with folded clothes in the drawers and pots and pans on top of the desk, officials said. There was a mop sink with a faucet about three feet off the ground and a shampoo bottle.
The victim had flown from India in 2019 expecting to travel to the U.S. with the couple. Instead, the Manns took his money and passport and put him to work without pay or a key to leave the store at night, investigators said.
Three other men told ABC agents they worked marathon hours for the couple and were paid a pittance.