A wealthy New York woman is facing criminal charges after being accused of keeping an illegal immigrant as an indentured servant and forcing her to live in a closet for nearly six years.
Documents posted on the Smoking Gun allege that Annie George, 39, and her now-deceased husband, Mathai Kolath George, hired an illegal immigrant from the Indian state of Kerala. The immigrant, identified only as "V.M.," was promised about $1,000 a month in wages to live in the family's 34-room, 30,000-square-foot home, known as Llenroc mansion, which houses a helicopter pad, 15 fireplaces, marble flooring, 24-karat gold gilded ceilings and a glass elevator. V.M. was tasked with taking care of the Georges' four young children, along with performing household duties in the mansion located about 20 miles north of Albany.
New York's minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Even if V.M. had been allowed to leave the residence at the end of a regular 40-hour workweek, she would have been entitled to a minimum, pretax income of $290 per week, or $1,160 per month.
Instead, the "forced labor situation" (as described in the court papers) was even worse than the already-below minimum wage offer of $1,000 month. V.M. received 85 cents an hour, working 17-hour days, seven days a week, over the 67 months she was kept inside the George residence.
All told, V.M. received only about $29,000 over the five and a half years she was forced to work for the George family.
The Smoking Gun reports that immigration agents received a tip from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center last year and removed V.M. from the George's property. The U.S. Department of Labor conducted its own investigation and says V.M. is entitled to $206,000 in back wages. She was also allegedly denied health benefits, sick days or any personal time off from her labors.
Annie George, whose husband died in a plane crash in 2009, reportedly called V.M.'s son three times, suggesting he "tell his mother to tell authorities that she was a relative of George's family and was only staying at George's house as a guest." However, V.M.'s son recorded the calls, which included a plea from Annie George, "If she says anything about working, it would become a big crime. They'll start adding up all the taxes and everything, for all the time."
According to the Smoking Gun documents, the George estate had been put up for sale for a reported $30 million.
Annie George appeared in court on Wednesday before a federal magistrate, facing charges of encouraging and inducing an illegal alien to reside in the U.S.