Couple Accused of Hiring, Abusing Illegal Indian Workers

Subway franchise operators Amrutlal Patel (left) and Dakshaben Patel have been charged with housing, transporting and employing illegal immigrants.

Subway franchise operators Amrutlal Patel (left) and Dakshaben Patel have been charged with housing, transporting and employing illegal immigrants.

By Indiawest

An Indian American couple who operate four Subway restaurants in Lexington, Kentucky, allegedly employed undocumented Indian nationals who worked long hours under duress for little pay, according to sworn statements by a manager at one of the restaurants and some of the illegal workers.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Homeland Security investigator David A. Ramalho signed criminal complaints Nov. 20 charging Amrutlal Patel and his wife, Dakshaben Patel, both 46, with housing, transporting and employing illegal immigrants.
One illegal worker, a man in his early 40s who went by the name Danny, said in a sworn statement that he was denied food and had been beaten, according to the complaint. He said the Patels housed him and three other men from India in a secret room in the basement of their home, allegedly locking them in at night.
Authorities arrested the Patels Nov. 19, after searching their home. The alleged illegal activities began September 2012 and continued until their arrest, the complaint stated.
Ramalho said the probe began when a witness went to Lexington police in August and claimed that “bad things” were happening to workers at the Subway stores operated by the Patels, the Herald-Leader reported.
Ramalho did not name the witness, but identified him as a manager at one of the couple’s four stores in Lexington. Danny begged the manager to go for help, even if it meant he would be arrested, because he was fed up with the way he was being treated, according to the sworn statement.
Danny told the manager that he owed $97,000 for being brought from India to work for Amrutlal Patel and was being charged interest of 13%. Another worker said he owed $100,000, according to the sworn statement by Ramalho.
Amrutlal Patel told another investigator that he owns the stores with a cousin, Ramalho added.
A former Subway employee also told police that Danny worked from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, even on days when he was sick.
When authorities searched the Patels’ home Nov. 19, they found Danny in a locked room upstairs. There were mattresses on the floor, but no bed frames, according to the affidavit, the Herald-Leader reported.
Danny said he came to the U.S. illegally through Canada and was arrested, but then failed to appear at his court appearance after posting bond. He said he found out about the Patels through friends and came to Lexington.
The witness who first told police about the Indian nationals said he once saw scratches on Danny’s neck, and when he asked what happened, Danny said “they hit me, won’t give me food,” Ramalho said.
During the search at the home of the Patels, however, Danny denied being treated roughly. He said he got a small amount of money, with $1,200 a month going to his wife in India, according to Ramalho’s statement.
Danny and four other people police interviewed said the Patels knew the workers were in the U.S. illegally, the affidavit said.
A man named Rakesh Patel told police he and his wife, Sushilaben Patel, received a total of $2,000-$2,500 a month to work for the Subway operators — about $4 to $5 a hour, Ramalho said.
However, the Subway owners paid the $600 monthly rent on their apartment. There was no TV or furniture when police went there, only sleeping bags on the floor, the Herald-Leader said.
Another worker, Sushilaben Patel, told police she came into the U.S. “through the Mexican line, like everyone else,” Ramalho said in the affidavit.
Another employee told authorities he got food, lodging, transportation and $1,800 a month to work 10 hours a day, seven days a week at the Patels’ restaurants.
Efforts to reach franchisee managers at Subway’s world headquarters Nov. 20 were unsuccessful, the Herald-Leader said.
The Patels face federal charges carrying a potential 10-year sentence. The Indian American couple was being held at the Fayette County Detention Center Nov. 20.

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