A 70-year-old Indian-American motel manager has pleaded guilty to trafficking with respect to peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or forced labour, according to the US Department of Justice.
Shreesh Tiwari, an Indian national and legal US permanent resident, admitted to misusing and abusing his position of power over a female tenant by compelling her to engage in "commercial sex acts".
"We refuse to tolerate human trafficking of any kind and this conviction reinforces our commitment to protecting all victims of crime in our community -- regardless of their status," said US Attorney Ryan K Buchanan for the Northern District of Georgia.
According to court documents, Tiwari began managing the Budgetel Motel in Cartersville, Georgia, in 2020, and hired the victim to work as a house cleaner at the motel.
He was aware that prior to arriving at the Budgetel, the victim had experienced homelessness, struggled with a heroin addiction and lost custody of her young child.
Tiwari promised the victim that he would help her regain custody of her child by providing her with pay, an apartment, and an attorney.
Instead of following through with his promises, Tiwari monitored the victim's interactions with motel guests and employees and forbade her from speaking to them.
In addition, he also made numerous sexual overtures to her and threatened to evict her from the room, report her to law enforcement and child welfare agencies whenever he became angry at her, knowing that she would become homeless as a result.
Eventually, Tiwari began to regularly "evict" the victim from her motel room, and even locked her out of her room at night without warning, forcing the victim to provide sexual favours.
According to local media reports, multiple women were allegedly trapped in Tiwari's net, and investigations are ongoing.
"This conviction demonstrates that the Justice Department is committed to prosecuting motel operators and other landlords who misuse and abuse their position of power over tenants to compel them to engage in commercial sex acts," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
Tiwari's sentencing is set for September 6. He faces a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison, as well as a $250,000 fine.
As part of his plea agreement, Tiwari agreed to pay slightly over $40,000 in mandatory restitution to the victims of the offence.
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