Stockton Husband and Wife Indicted on Human Trafficking Charges Related to Forced Labor of Foreign Nationals Primarily from India
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment today against Satish Kartan, 43, and his wife, Sharmistha Barai, 38, of Stockton, charging them with conspiracy to commit forced labor and the commission of forced labor. In addition, Kartan was charged with fraud in foreign labor contracting, and Barai was charged with benefiting from forced labor.
Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced the indictment.
According to court documents, between February 21, 2014, and October 3, 2016, Kartan and Barai hired workers from overseas to perform domestic labor in their homes in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Stockton and elsewhere in the United States. In advertisements seeking workers on the internet and India-based newspapers, the defendants made false claims regarding the wages and the duties of employment. Once the workers arrived at the defendants’ residences, Kartan and Barai forced them to work 18 hours a day with limited rest and nourishment. The defendants did not pay wages and used force, physical restraint and coercive conduct to get the workers to perform the labor and services.
The indictment alleges that Kartan and Barai struck one worker on multiple occasions, including one incident where Kartan grabbed her hands and caused them to be burned over the flames of a gas stove. Moreover, the indictment alleges that the defendants failed to pay another worker and told her that they would call the police if she tried to leave. When she was ultimately able to arrange to be picked up from the defendants’ house, Kartan refused to provide her with the access code to the gated community so that her ride could enter.
On October 21, 2016, the defendants were arrested on a criminal complaint and were released on bond with special conditions that prohibit them from hiring any nonrelatives to perform domestic services or child care work for them, and prohibit them from directly or indirectly contacting any of their prior domestic workers. Kartan and Barai are scheduled to be arraigned on November 21, 2016.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the FBI, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, and the Stockton Police Department. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Sigal and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nirav Desai are prosecuting the case, with the assistance of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.
The Eastern District of California (Sacramento) is one of six districts designated through a competitive, nationwide selection process as a Phase II ACTeam, through the interagency ACTeam Initiative of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Labor. ACTeams focus on developing high-impact human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion through interagency collaboration among federal prosecutors and federal investigative agencies.