The defendant and her husband, Mahender Sabhnani, owners of a lucrative world-wide perfume manufacturing and distribution business, were arrested on May 14, 2007, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Nassau County Police Department and the Old Brookville Police Department. The investigation began after one of the victims was found in a Dunkin' Donuts store in Syosset, N.Y., wearing rags and with open wounds behind her ears. Subsequently, during the execution of a search warrant at the defendants' residence in Muttontown, N.Y., a second victim was found hiding in a closet under the basement stairs.
During the 8-week trial, held between Oct. 22, 2007 and Dec. 17, 2007, the jury heard testimony that the defendants brought the two victims, who did not speak English and had limited education, from Indonesia to the United States to work as domestic servants. Their passports, visas and other identification documents were confiscated, and they were kept in a state of servitude in the defendants' home for several years, where they were forced to labor up to 20 hours a day. Varsha Sabhnani physically and psychologically abused both victims by beating, stabbing, scalding, cutting, starving them; depriving them of sleep; preventing contact with family members; and threatening to have the victims and their family members jailed. Following 2 days of deliberations, the jury convicted Varsha Sabhnani and her husband of all counts in the indictment.
“Human trafficking is a global problem that offends basic human rights and human dignity,” said U.S. Attorney Benton J. Campbell. “It is shocking that crimes like these could occur in one of our communities in the 21st century.”
“On behalf of the Nassau County Police Department, we are pleased with the successful prosecution of this case,” said Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey. “The reprehensible and egregious acts of this defendant against two innocent victims has certainly touched our community and brought to light the deplorable conditions and the inhumane treatment associated with human trafficking. The law enforcement community will continue its collective efforts to apprehend those who engage in this unlawful conduct.”
Mahender Sabhnani is scheduled to be sentenced on June 27.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Demetri M. Jones and Mark J. Lesko, assisted by Paralegal Specialist Glenda Abelman.