Williamsburg Business Owner Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering and Conspiracy Involving Labor Trafficking
RICHMOND, Va. – A federal jury today convicted three members of a Midlothian, Virginia household on charges pertaining to forced labor. Zahida Aman, 80, was convicted of conspiracy to commit forced labor, forced labor, and document servitude. Mohammed Rehan Chaudhri, 48, was convicted of conspiracy to commit forced labor and forced labor. Mohammad Nauman Chaudhri, 54, was convicted of conspiracy to commit forced labor.
“The defendants exploited someone who should have been a loved family member to force her to work in their home for over 14 years,” said U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Forced labor, the modern-day equivalent of slavery, has no place in our country or district, and we will stop at nothing to prosecute those that commit these or similar crimes. Let this conviction serve as a light to survivors impacted by labor trafficking and as a deterrent to those conspiring to commit heinous labor trafficking crimes.”
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, in 2002, the victim married Aman’s son and the brother of defendants Nauman and Rehan Chaudhri. Thereafter, she lived in the home of the defendants. Over the next 12 years, the three defendants forced her to perform domestic services. To coerce that labor, the defendants verbally assaulted and physically abused the victim over a period of 12 years. In addition, though the victim, a native of Pakistan, had temporary immigration status in the United States, defendant Aman took the victim’s immigration documents. Thereafter, defendants threatened the victim with deportation should she not obey their demands. The defendants also threatened to separate the victim from her children to coerce her labor.
“The defendants exploited the victim’s trust and inflicted cruel and inhumane physical and mental abuse on her, all so they could keep her working in their home as their domestic servant,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. “Human trafficking is a disgraceful and unacceptable crime, and this verdict should send the very clear message that the Justice Department will investigate and vigorously prosecute these cases to hold human traffickers accountable and bring justice to their victims.”
“The FBI is committed to working with our partners to protect the civil rights of all persons, investigate and prosecute allegations of abuse, and assist the victims of these crimes throughout the process,” said Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Richmond Field Office. “The strength and perseverance of this victim and the investigative team should be commended; and we encourage any community member who knows of or suspects this type of abuse is occurring to report it to authorities immediately.”
Aman and Mohammed Rehan Chaudhri face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Mohammad Nauman Chaudhri faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Richmond Field Office, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney accepted the verdict. Homeland Security Investigations also participated in the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shea Gibbons, Stephen Miller, and Heather H. Mansfield are prosecuting the case, along with Trial Attorney Leah L. Branch of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:19-cr-85.