News and Press Releases

Varsha Sabhnani Sentenced to 132 Months' Imprisonment for Her Conviction in Long Island "Slave" Case

June 26, 2008

Two Housekeepers Kept in a Condition of Forced Labor and Servitude in Muttontown Residence

VARSHA SABHNANI was sentenced today to 132 months’ imprisonment based on her conviction after trial of forced labor, peonage, harboring aliens, document servitude, and related conspiracy charges. The proceeding was held before United States District Court Judge Arthur D. Spatt at the U.S. Courthouse in Central Islip, New York.

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 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, New York, wearing rags and with open wounds behind her ears. Subsequently, during the execution of a search warrant at the defendants’ residence in Muttontown, New York, a second victim was found hiding in a closet under the basement stairs.

During the eight week trial, held between October 22, 2007 and December 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; confiscated their passports, visas, and other identification documents; kept the victims in a state of servitude in the defendants’ home for several years where they were forced to labor up to 20 hours a day; and that 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 two 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,” stated United States Attorney Benton J. Campbell. “It is shocking that crimes like these could occur in one of our communities in the 21st century.” Mr. Campbell expressed his grateful appreciation to the Old Brookville Police Department, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, and the Sisters of Saint Dominic in Amityville, New York, for their assistance.

“The trafficking of human beings is an unconscionable crime that uses the promise of America to lure individuals into forced servitude. These acts expose victims to terrible physical, mental, and even sexual abuse,” said Julie L. Myers, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE. “ICE will use all of its authority and work closely with local law enforcement and prosecutors to make certain that victims of trafficking are found, rescued, and given justice.”

“On behalf of the Nassau County Police Department, we are pleased with the successful prosecution of this case, stated 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.”

The case was investigated and prosecuted by the Long Island Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, whose participants include Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Department of Labor, the New York State Department of Labor, the Nassau County Police Department, the Nassau County District Attorney, the Suffolk County Police Department, Catholic Charities, and Safe Horizon.

Mahender Sabhnani is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Spatt tomorrow afternoon.

The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Demetri M. Jones and Mark J. Lesko, assisted by Paralegal Specialist Glenda Abelman.

The Defendant:

Age: 46