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Gilroy couple accused of ‘enslaving’ man, forcing him to live and work in store for no pay

amarjit and balwinder mann
Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office
Amarjit (right) and Balwinder (left) Mann

GILROY, Calif. (KION) A Gilroy couple is facing human trafficking charges after they were accused of locking a man in a liquor store, forcing him to work 15 hour shifts every day and making him sleep in a storage room.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office said the man was forced to bathe in a mop bucket and was never paid.

The suspects are Amarjit and Balwinder Mann, who own M&M Liquors on Westwood Drive. Investigators estimate that the couple stole more than $150,000 in wages from the victim and three of the store's employees..

The investigation began in February when an Alcoholic Beverage Control inspection led to the discovery of the victim. An agent found the man, who appeared to be living in a storage room, and identified it as a red flag for human trafficking. In the room, the agent reportedly found a thin mattress on milk crates, an office desk with folded clothes in the drawers, pots and pans next to the desk and a mop sink with a shampoo bottle.

The DA's Office said investigators found that the victim had flown from India in 2019 and expected to travel to the U.S. with the couple, but instead they allegedly took his money and passport. They allegedly made him work without pay and locked him in the store at night.

Investigators believe the Manns recruited workers from India and promised them travel and financial independence.

“Slavery officially was abolished in 1865,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “Tragically, we are seeing examples of it in 2020. My Office will prosecute anyone to the fullest extent of the law who practices this kind of criminal and inhumane exploitation.”

Two other men who worked at the store and another who worked at the market across the street, Gavilan Market, told investigators that they worked "marathon hours" with little pay, and one said he was not aware of a minimum wage.

The Manns are facing charges that include labor human trafficking, witness intimidation and wage theft.

Article Topic Follows: News

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.

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