By Richie Ramos

STOCKTON (CBS13) – A former resident of Stockton who received human trafficking convictions related to forced labor was sentenced to over 15 years in prison, authorities said on Sunday.

Sharmistha Barai, 40, was found guilty Friday, Oct. 2, of conspiracy to obtain forced labor and two counts of forced labor of foreign nationals, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release.

Barai’s husband, Satish Kartan was also found guilty of all charges and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 22.

“The sentence imposed today sends a strong message that human trafficking and forced labor will not be tolerated in the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “The defendant’s role in this scheme to compel the victims into servitude for up to 18 hours a day, with minimal pay, through intimidation, threats, and violence, is an unconscionable violation of the victims’ individual rights, freedom, and dignity.”

Between February 2014 and October 2016, Barai and Kartan hired workers from overseas to perform labor in their home and had them working up to 18 hours a day with minimal rest and nourishment, authorities said.

Investigators said the couple put up ads in India-based newspapers and online that contained false claims of wages and working conditions. If anyone tried to leave or discontinue working with Barai and Kartan, the couple threatened the workers “by creating an atmosphere of fear, control, and disempowerment, and at times by physically hitting or burning them,” the DOJ said.

“The defendants’ horrendous conduct, done in the privacy of their home, was publicly exposed during the trial,” said U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott, of the Eastern District of California. “One by one the victims told their stories of the brutality they experienced: long hours of labor, inadequate food, and physical assault. Today’s sentence sends a clear message to others that systematic brutality against vulnerable victims will not be tolerated.”

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