N.Y. millionaire gets 11 years in prison

June 27th, 2008 - 4:54 pm ICT by Amrit Rashmisrisethi  

A millionaire who abused on two Indonesian housekeepers kept as slaves in her Long Island mansion was sentenced for 11 years in prison.

Varsha Sabhnani, 46, was convicted with her husband on a 12-count federal indictment which includes forced labor, conspiracy, involuntary servitude and harboring aliens.

The victims testified that they were beaten with brooms and umbrellas, slashed with knives, and forced to climb stairs and take freezing showers as punishment. One victim was forced to eat dozens of chili peppers and then was forced to eat her own vomit when she couldn’t keep the peppers down, prosecutors said.

“In her arrogance, she treated Samirah and Enung as less than people,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Demetri Jones said. “Justice for the victims, that’s what the government is asking for.”

Federal sentencing guidelines had recommended a range of 12 to 15 years in prison for Sabhnani, who was identified as the one who inflicted the abuse.she will serve three years of probation and was fined $25,000.

Mahender Sabhnani, 51, who is free on bail wept as he watched his wife’s punishment pronounced.

The women, whose relatives in Indonesia were paid about $100 a month. The women received no cash -and said they were tortured and beaten .

The couple also faced to fine . Mahender Sabhnani ran an international perfume business out of a home office.

One of the women arrived in the Sabhnanis’ Muttontown home in 2002, the second in 2005. Their passports and other travel documents were immediately confiscated by the Sabhnanis, the women testified.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Hoffman said that 175 letters were submitted to the court detailing Sabhnani’s charitable acts around the world. He called her “a woman who spent a lifetime doing good deeds.”

Hoffman said that around 2004 or 2005, Sabhnani’s weight plummeted from 325 pounds to 135. “She did it by starving herself,” and that resulted in a chemical imbalance and significant malnourishment. “She had become a very different person.”

“I think it’s very harsh,” Hoffman said after the sentencing. “She has suffered dramatically.”

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