Federal prosecutors have charged Amrutlal Patel and his wife, Dakshaben Patel, both 46, with housing, transporting and employing illegal aliens. The couple operates four Subway restaurants in Lexington and employed undocumented Indian nationals who worked 10-12 hours a day throughout the week for little pay, a statement said.
That provided a "substantial financial gain" for the Patels, Assistant US Attorney Hydee Hawkins said.
The employees each owed nearly USD 100,000 for being brought from India
Federal prosecutors have said the Patels are a flight risk and could flee the US for India if they are released. They can use the large amounts of cash they have from their businesses to flee and have already sent about USD 100,000 back to India, the prosecutors said.
Defence attorneys have argued that the Patels will not leave the country because of their business and two young children. The couple came to the US in 2006, hoping to become citizens. They added that the Patels were trying to help fellow Indian nationals by providing them jobs in the US.
According to a sworn statement from Homeland Security Investigations agent David Ramalho, an employee at one of the restaurants run by the Patels told a witness that he had been denied food and allegedly beaten up by the couple. The employee said the Patels had kept him and three other men from India in a secret room in the basement of their house and used to lock them at night. Sometimes they made the employees work even when they were not well.
The alleged illegal activity lasted for over a year beginning September 2012 and the investigation began after the witness went to Lexington police in August to report that "bad things" were happening to workers at Subway stores operated by the Patels.
Lexington police then began its investigation and conducted extensive surveillance to document that the Patels were transporting and housing illegal aliens, according to Ramalho's affidavit.
One of Patel's employees had asked the witness to go to police for help because he was tired of being treated badly, Ramalho said. The employees each owed nearly USD 100,000 for being brought from India to work for the Patels.
When authorities searched the Patels' home, they found one of the employees in a locked room upstairs.
Another employee told authorities he got food, lodging, transportation and USD 1,800 a month to work 10 hours a day, seven days a week at the Patels' restaurants.