Indian motel manager in US jailed for human trafficking, forced labour

PTI, Dec 8, 2023, 8:21 AM IST

Washington: An Indian motel manager in Georgia has been sentenced to 57 months in prison for trafficking a woman for peonage and slavery, and ordered to pay over USD40,000 in restitution to seven people, officials said.

According to court documents, Shreesh Tiwari, 71, an Indian national and legal US permanent resident, began managing the Budgetel Motel in Cartersville, Georgia, in 2020.

Tiwari hired the woman to work as a maid at the motel and provided her with a room. He was aware that the victim had previously experienced homelessness, struggled with a heroin addiction and lost custody of her young child, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Tiwari promised the victim that he would help her regain custody of her child by providing her with pay, an apartment and an attorney, it said.

However, instead of following through with his promises, Tiwari monitored the victim’s interactions with motel guests and employees and forbade her from speaking to them, federal prosecutors alleged.

He also discouraged the victim from communicating with her family and friends, falsely claiming that they did not care about her, they added.

Tiwari made sexual overtures to the victim and often threatened to evict her from the room he provided her at the motel, the prosecutors said.

They said Tiwari also threatened to report the victim’s drug use to law enforcement or child welfare agencies.

Tiwari began to regularly “evict” the victim from her motel room and even locked her out of her room at night without warning, according to the statement.

Ultimately, He required the victim to perform sex acts with him to stay at the motel. If she did not, Tiwari removed her from the property, causing her to be homeless, it added.

“Human trafficking can occur anywhere since traffickers are adept at identifying someone’s vulnerabilities and often fraudulently extend hope to someone looking for an opportunity to improve their dire circumstances,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said.

“Tiwari used his position of power to ruthlessly abuse a victim he knew had already suffered immeasurably,” said US Attorney Ryan K Buchanan for the Northern District of Georgia.

“The level of this defendant’s callousness is shocking. But we are thankful that our community is now safer, and other potential victims spared… Our office also intends for Tiwari’s prosecution and sentence to provide a stark warning to other traffickers,” he said.

Acting Special Agent in Charge Travis Pickard of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Atlanta said Tiwari preyed upon the victim’s difficult past and fear of homelessness to control and extort her, subjecting her to unspeakable horrors.

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