Scent of Cruelty

In mid-May of last year, a multimillionaire Muttontown couple were arrested on charges of enslaving two Indonesian women in their Long Island home.

The couple, Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 45, and her husband, Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani, 51, who’d made their fortune distributing perfume, were accused of threatening the women’s family back in Indonesia with imprisonment and torturing them if the women did not perform their house-keeping duties appropriately.

One of the two Indonesian women was beaten by Varsha Sabhnani with a broomstick, sliced behind the ears with a knife, burnt with scalding water, among many other things, according to federal prosecutor Demetri Jones and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Lesko.

The women, referred to only as “Nona” and “Samirah” were forced to work 21 hours a day, from 4:00 AM to 1:00 AM “seven days a week,” Jones and Lesko said. The only pay “Samirah” received was $100 a month sent to her daughter in Indonesia. It’s unknown that “Nona” received any pay.

“No one would ever think that human beings were being brought into the United States and held for slave labor, and beaten, and tortured in a beautiful mansion right here in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods on Long Island,” said Jones.

The Sabhnanis were arraigned on charges under a federal anti-slavery statute of obtaining “the labor and services of another person by use of threats of serious physical harm to and physical restraint against that person.”

In December of last year, the couple were found guilty of federal charges of forced labor, debt servitude and harboring illegal immigrants.

Federal prosecutors recommended yesterday that Varsha get between 30 years and life for enslaving and abusing the women. The recommended time for Mahender is between 12 to 15 years.

Let’s keep an eye on this one: Varsha Sabhnani is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt on May 30. Her husband, Mahender, is being sentenced on June 6.

Read all about it here: LI Housekeepers Held As Slaves, Tortured; Slaves Of Long Island; Millionaire Long Island Couple Charged with Slave Labor; Slave Couple Separated, Varsha Sent To Jail; Long Sentences Recommended For Slave Pair; Recent Trial Coverage.


4 responses to “Scent of Cruelty

  1. This is simply astounding. Someone with that much wealth enslaving those women must be doing it for pleasure.

  2. ina nutshell, that’s pretty much the point of my book! we’re not a pretty species, and we have a way (many ways, actually) of justifying barbaric behavior. a lot of what goes by “economics” and “free market” quasi-science is really just good old-fashioned cruelty. slavery, and for that matter, rampant labor exploitation, are by no means logical. asking “why would anyone enslave someone else?” is a bit like asking, “why would a species pollute their environment?” i think it’s too simple to say we must be doing it for pleasure, but you’re awfully close.

  3. Yep. I loved the book.

  4. Pingback: Case Updates: Simone Celestin, Nona and Samirah «

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