Virginia

Virginia family convicted of forcing woman into ‘slavery’

A judge on Tuesday convicted three family members in a Virginia court after forcing another family member into what prosecutors described as the “modern equivalent of slavery” for more than 10 years.

The case involved Zahida Aman, 80, and her two sons, Mohammed Naumman Chaudhri, 54, and Mohammed Rehan Chaudhri, 48. The three were found guilty in May 2022 of conspiracy to commit forced labour.

The conspiracy began in 2002 when Aman arranged for one of her sons to marry the victim, prosecutors said. After the two married, the woman was kept at her home in Virginia to serve the extended family.

According to prosecutors in the case, family members “coldly exploited the victim’s vulnerabilities and brutally enforced her labor through physical violence and emotional abuse.”

Evidence presented during the case showed that the woman was verbally and physically abused in order to force her to serve as a family servant. So she worked for them every day, starting early in the morning.

“The defendants punched, kicked and shoved the victim, hit her with a wooden board and at one point tied her hands and feet and dragged her down the stairs in front of her children,” the Justice Department said in a publication.

Prosecutors were also able to show that they restricted the communications she had with her family in Pakistan and she was not allowed to speak to anyone but family.

Evidence also showed that the woman’s immigration documents and money were stolen by the family. They also threatened to separate her from her children if she didn’t do as she was told. There were also times when they threatened to deport her back to Pakistan, evidence showed.

Prosecutors also found that the family did not allow her to learn to drive or get her U.S. driver’s license, limiting where she was allowed to drive.

During her May 2022 sentencing speech, US Attorney Jessica D. Alber for the Eastern District of Virginia said the woman had undergone a “modern-day equivalent of slavery.”

“The defendants took advantage of what should have been a loved one in their family to force them to work in their home [more than a decade]’ said Alber. “We will stop at nothing to prosecute those who commit these or similar crimes.”

Aman was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit forced labor, forced labor and documenting serfdom charges; Mohammed Naumann Chaudhri was sentenced to 5 years in prison for conspiracy to commit forced labour; and Mohammed Rehan Chaudhri was sentenced to 10 years in prison on conspiracy to commit forced labor and charges of forced labor.

The court also ordered the woman’s family to pay $250,000 in compensation for back wages and other financial losses she suffered in the 12 years she forced her to work for her.

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