NY case of illegal mansion servant set to resume

  • Article by: MICHAEL HILL
  • Associated Press
  • March 8, 2013 - 2:06 AM

ALBANY, N.Y. - A federal jury was set to resume deliberations in the case of a woman accused of cheating an Indian household servant out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay and keeping her a virtual prisoner at a mansion in upstate New York.

Jurors got the case Thursday after Annie George repeated her earlier testimony that she didn't know Valsamma Mathai was in the United States illegally and she didn't mistreat her during the 5 1/2 years she worked in her 20,000-square-foot home in an Albany suburb.

Mathai testified earlier that she slept in a closet, worked long days without vacation, days off or sick time and wasn't allowed to leave the property, a palatial stone mansion on a cliff overlooking the Mohawk River.

The case surfaced when Mathai's son in India, Shiju, called the National Human Trafficking Resources Center in 2011.

George is charged with harboring an illegal immigrant for financial gain, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine upon conviction.

She repeatedly broke down in tears on the witness stand Wednesday, saying she was left in desperate financial straits when her husband died in 2009. She said she knew nothing of his business dealings, including the arrangement to have Mathai live with them, because he required her to stick to her duties as his wife and mother of their six children and severely punished her if she tried to make any decisions in the home.

Her late husband, Mathai George, was a native of India who built a hotel and real estate development business in the United States. He was killed in 2009 along with his 11-year-old son and another man when their private plane crashed after takeoff west of Schenectady.

Valsamma Mathai came to the United States legally on a limited visa about 12 years ago after her husband died of cancer, leaving her the sole provider for her two sons and ailing mother. When she left a family she originally worked for, she violated the terms of her limited visa.

Federal prosecutors said Annie George owes Mathai $317,000, based on the minimum wage and overtime for the hours she worked in the George household. Mathai said she was paid only $26,000, much of which she sent to her family in India.

Deliberations resume on Friday.

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