A Gilroy couple who own a liquor store are facing charges of human trafficking, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced Nov. 9.
Amarjit and Balwinder Mann, both 66, the owners of M&M Liquors on Westwood Drive, are accused of locking a man in the store, where he worked 15-hour shifts, seven days a week, slept in a storage room, bathed in a mop bucket, and was never paid.
The Manns face charges of labor human trafficking, witness intimidation, and wage theft involving a total of four victims. They will be arraigned Nov. 9 in Department 24 at the Hall of Justice in San Jose. If convicted of the felonies, they could face prison time.
Both have been booked into Santa Clara County Jail with no bail.
According to the DA, during an Alcoholic Beverage Control inspection in late February, the agent contacted a man who appeared to be living in a small storage room in the back area of the store. The agent noted a thin mattress lying over milk crates, and an office desk containing folded clothes in each drawer.
On top of the desk there were pots and pans for cooking and next to the desk, there was a mop sink with a faucet approximately three feet off the ground and a shampoo bottle. Investigators later learned the victim was bathing from the mop sink, according to the DA.
The investigation further concluded that the man had flown from India in 2019 expecting to travel to the U.S. with the Manns. Instead, they reportedly took his money and passport and put him to work without pay or a key to leave the liquor store at night, the DA’s Office stated.
Three other men—two who worked at the liquor store and one who worked at a market further away on Westwood Drive—reportedly told agents that they worked marathon hours and were paid a pittance.
An investigation estimates that the suspects had stolen more than $150,000 in wages from the victim and three other employees.
“Slavery officially was abolished in 1865,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “Tragically, we are seeing examples of it in 2020. My office will prosecute anyone to the fullest extent of the law who practices this kind of criminal and inhumane exploitation.”
A phone number listed for the store was not in service when called Nov. 9.