Indian-origin couple in Virginia found guilty of exploiting minor family member, jailed


An Indian-origin couple from Virginia has been sentenced for forcing the man’s younger cousin to work at their gas station and convenience store for over three years.

“Harmanpreet Singh, 31, was sentenced to 135 months in prison and Kulbir Kaur, 43, was sentenced to 87 months in prison,” US Department of Justice said in a statement.

Singh and Kaur have since divorced.

A federal jury in the Eastern District of Virginia convicted the couple of conspiracy to commit forced labor, harboring for financial gain and document servitude, following a two-week trial in January. Evidence against Singh and Kaur showed them enticing the victim in 2018, then a minor, of enrollment in a school in the US. However, the victim’s documents were snatched away from him and he was forced into working at the store between March 2018 and May 2021.

Additionally, the court ordered the couple to pay the victim $225,210.76 in restitution. “The defendants exploited their relationship with the victim to lure him to the United States with false promises that they would help enroll him in school,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

“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 labor will not be tolerated in our communities.

“The Justice Department is committed to fully enforcing our federal human trafficking statutes to vindicate the rights of survivors and hold human traffickers accountable for such shameful exploitation of vulnerable victims,” Clarke said.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Jessica D. Aber, said, “The crimes committed by these defendants are not merely violations of the law; they are an affront to humanity.”

“These defendants preyed on the victim’s earnest desire to attain an education and improve his life. Instead, they deprived him of the most basic human needs and robbed him of his freedom. We remain steadfastly committed to securing justice for victims of human trafficking,” she added.

Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, Michael Nordwall, said, “The defendants lured the victim to travel from India to Virginia to work at their gas station where they exploited him for over three year.”

“The FBI will continue to work in all communities to stop forced labor trafficking and the psychological and physical violence that comes with it,” Nordwall added.

The case was investigated by the FBI Richmond Field Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the Eastern District of Virginia, Avi Panth and Peter S. Duffey, and Trial Attorney Matthew Thiman of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit prosecuted the case.