Indian-American woman charged with keeping maid as slave

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 08, 2013 04:30 hrs

New York, March 8 (IANS) A New York jury has sought a review of the testimony of an Indian-American woman charged with keeping an illegal immigrant woman from India as a virtual slave at her mansion in upstate New York.

Jurors deciding the federal case of the 40-year-old Annie George in US District Court Albany, about 140 miles north of New York City, Thursday asked Judge Gary Sharpe to re-hear testimony in which George possibly referred to Valsamma Mathai as "the maid," Albany Times Union reported.

George's defence is largely based on her contention that Mathai, a fellow immigrant from India, was a family friend who helped out around the home and was given money, but was never an employee.

If the jury hears that George described Mathai as a maid in her testimony Thursday, it could lead the panel to conclude the defendant lied under oath, the local newspaper said. George faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of harbouring an illegal immigrant for financial gain.

The jury also wants to review George's testimony in which she mentioned she had possibly once asked about Mathai having a passport. George has adamantly said she had no idea Mathai was an illegal immigrant.

Earlier, Assistant US Attorney Rick Belliss highlighted tape-recorded phone conversations in which he said George admitted she employed an illegal servant, according to Times Union.

George was recorded speaking to Mathai's son, Shiju Mathai, who secretly taped the conversations after federal agents ended the illegal employment of his mother in May 2011, Belliss was quoted as saying.

Prosecutors said George illegally employed the 49-year-old Mathai for five and a half years, starting in 2005. They said Mathai worked 17-hour days with no time off or sick leave.

She slept in a closet while working in the Llenroc mansion in Rexford, the last of three homes in which she worked for the George family, prosecutors said. And she should have earned $317,144 working for George but only received $21,000.

George's lawyer, Mark Sacco, told the jury George was a battered wife whose late husband, Mathai Kolath George, made all the decisions, which included allowing Mathai to live with the family. The husband and one of their six children, George Kolath Jr., died in a private plane crash in 2009.

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