US Indian couple have been jailed for forcing their relative to

work at their petrol station and convenience store for more than three years.

They lured him to the United States under the false pretence of enrolling him in school.

US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Jessica D Aber said Harmanpreet Singh and Kulbir Kaur exploited the victim’s desire for education and a better life.

Instead, they denied their relative basic human needs and stripped away his freedom.

In 2018, they lured Singh’s cousin – then a minor – to come to the US from India under the false pretence of helping enrol him in school.

Once in the US, the couple took his immigration documents and forced him to work at Singh’s store between March 2018 and May 2021.

Singh and Kaur coerced the victim into working between 12 and 17 hours daily, performing tasks such as cleaning, cooking, stocking, operating the cash register and managing store records for minimal pay.

The US Indian couple used various coercive methods.

This included confiscating his immigration documents, physical abuse, threats of force, and other serious harm, as well as subjecting him to degrading living conditions, to keep him working.

On several occasions, the victim was forced to sleep in a back office at the store for days.

The couple limited his access to food, refused to provide medical care or education, used surveillance equipment to monitor the victim both at the store and in their home, refused his requests to return to India and made him overstay his visa.

They also forced the victim to marry Kaur and used that marriage to threaten to seize the victim’s family’s properties or falsely report him to the police if he tried to leave.

Evidence also revealed that Singh pulled his cousin’s hair, slapped and kicked him whenever he requested his immigration documents back or tried to leave.

On three separate occasions, Singh threatened the victim with a revolver for trying to take a day off and for trying to leave.

Singh was jailed for 11 years and three months while Kaur was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison.

The US Indian couple were also ordered to pay $225,210.76 (£177,815.16) in restitution to the victim.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said:

“The defendants exploited their relationship with the victim to lure him to the United States with false promises that they would help enrol him in school.

“The defendants confiscated the victim’s immigration documents and subjected him to threats, physical force and mental abuse to coerce him to work long hours for minimal pay.

“This sentence should send a strong message that such forced labour will not be tolerated in our communities.”