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Maximum sentence sought for Indian-American couple

india Updated: Apr 09, 2008 19:02 IST

Seeking maximum sentence for a multi-millionaire Indian-American couple convicted of modern day slavery, US prosecutors have recommended that the main accused Varsha Sabhnani be handed down a 30-year jail term.

Prosecutors have sought a prison term of 12 to 15 years for Varsha's India-born husband Mahender.

After a six-week trial, the couple with flourishing international perfume business was convicted by a jury in December for torturing two Indonesian women they had kept at domestic help as also harbouring illegal aliens.

US District Judge Arthur Spatt is due to sentence Varsha on May 30 and Mahender on June 6. But their attorneys consider the sentence too harsh and are expected to file their recommendation.

The federal probation officials too have filed their recommendations which are confidential but Newsday reported on Wednesday that they have recommended that Varsha be sentenced to between 9 and 11 years and Mahender to between five and half and seven years.

The paper said that the recommendations by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Lesko and Demetri Jones were in response to a set of confidential sentencing recommendations made to Spatt by federal probation officials.

The paper quoted Lekso and Jones as arguing that that the probation report overlooked several factors that should sharply increase the Sabhnanis' sentences.

They said that those factors included "using a minor to commit a crime," the use of dangerous weapons and Varsha Sabhnani's role as the leader of "a criminal activity that involved five or more participants."

Indonesia-born Varsha was sent to jail after the verdict but her husband Mahender was allowed to remain in home detention until sentencing.

The couple, who has has four children, were arrested in mid May after one of the Indonesian women was found loitering near a restaurant wearing only a towel and pants.

The employees called the police and she told them through an interpreter that she had been physically and psychologically tortured. The other woman was found when the authorities searched their mansion.