Two former western Nebraska hotel managers will spend a year and a day in federal prison and get kicked out of the country for enslaving a nephew, forcing him to work without pay and isolating and abusing him.
Vishnubhai Chaudhari and Leelabahen Chaudhari were sentenced Monday afternoon in federal court in Omaha.
In December, they pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of alien harboring for financial gain. The couple are Indian nationals not able to legally reside in the United States.
The couple had faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines per charge.
The two were the managers of a Super 8 Motel in Kimball in the Nebraska Panhandle. They forced their nephew, an Indian national they knew to be in the United States illegally, to work seven days a week, cleaning rooms, shoveling snow, doing laundry and other chores.
The man, identified in court documents only as M.C., entered the U.S. unlawfully in 2011 and was taken into immigration custody in Texas.
On Oct. 13 of that year, the Chaudharis arranged for an intermediary to pay his bond and he was released from custody, the indictment says. They then arranged for his transportation from Texas to Kimball, a city of about 2,500 about 20 miles east of the Wyoming border.
The nephew eventually escaped with the help of a motel guest and local law enforcement, the release said.
The situation came to light after the nephew spoke to a guest about what was going on, said Kimball County Sheriff Harry Gillway.
“He told the guest that he was being held against his will and that they had taken his passport and that he was not permitted to leave and they beat him,” Gillway told The World-Herald in December.
Gillway and some deputies met with the man clandestinely. Federal authorities took over the case and helped the nephew escape.
“People should know this human trafficking happens throughout America,” Gillway said. “We didn’t have a clue until this fellow came forward. We are so glad he was able to talk to the guest.”
The couple have paid M.C. $40,000 in restitution.
Gillway said people should be mindful of the prevalence of human trafficking, particularly in the hospitality industry.
“If you see something say something,” he said. “We need to put an end to this slavery.”