Curtains now on the modern day slavery case involving two Indonesian maids and a New York millionaire couple. The husband Mahender Sabhani was sentenced Friday to 40 months in prison. Earlier his wife had been sent to jail for 11 years.
The 51-year-old perfume magnate was spared the same sentence as his wife, Varsha, apparently because he did not join her in inflicting cruelties on the hapless Indonesian maids.
Varsha Sabhnani, 46, sentenced Thursday, was identified as the one who inflicted the abuse, while prosecutors said her husband allowed the conduct to take place and benefited from the work the women performed in his home. U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt concurred, media reports said.
The Sabhnanis were arrested in May 2007 and convicted last year of 12 counts, including forced labor, peonage, harboring aliens, servitude and related conspiracy charges, according to court documents.
The victims, identified as Samirah and Enung, had testified that they were beaten with brooms and umbrellas, slashed with knives, and forced to take freezing showers as punishment for crimes like taking leftovers from trash cans because they were hungry. Judge Spatt called the testimony "eyeopening, to say the least - that things like that go on in our country".
The victims testified that the defendants' abuse included cutting and stabbing them, preventing them from sleep and keeping them from contacting their families, according to a statement from Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey of the Nassau County Police Department.
"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," Mulvey said.
Interestingly the very same man who was party to the horrid cruelties perpetrated on the two Indonesian girls pleaded mercy on the ground that his own four adult children, three daughters in their twenties and a teenaged son, would be left uncared for if he too was sent to prison. After all the mother had already been sentenced to a long term of 11 years.
Perhaps he could be sentenced to home confinement instead of prison, he suggested helpfully, through his attorney. But the plea did not evoke much sympathy.
Only the judge postponed until July 11 a hearing on whether the couple must forfeit their Muttontown home valued at over $2 million.
The Indian American community is not too happy with the jail term slapped on Varsha, news agency IANS said.
Bharat Jotwani, a friend of the Sabhnanis who was in the court for Varsha's sentencing, said: "The family is very disappointed and upset with the harsh sentence. Eleven years is a long time."