“V.M.,” employed as a servant at a mansion in Rexford, repeatedly asked her employer to send her earnings to her sons in India, according to papers filed in federal court, but the payments were sporadic and far less than what the woman actually was owed.
“V.M.” worked from 5:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. each day at the sprawling Llenroc estate where her employers lived, and was given no time off, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says in court papers. She rarely was allowed to leave Llenroc.
The account is part of a larger prosecutor’s document filed last week in U.S. District Court in advance of the July 30 trial of the “V.M.’s” employer, Annie George, who faces one count of harboring an illegal alien for private financial gain.
The papers outline how the woman came to be in the family’s employ, her daily routines and her efforts, through one of her sons, to extricate herself from the family once it became evident she would never be paid.
“V.M. repeatedly asked Ms. George to send her earnings to her children but was frequently met with excuses from Ms. George as to why a payment could not be made,” the prosecution’s papers read. “V.M.’s sons would just waste the money so Ms. George would hold the money for her, or there was no money to pay V.M. etc.”
The “no money” excuse is met in the paperwork by a footnote from the prosecutor. In September 2009, the family received payment on a $5 million life insurance policy after the death of George’s husband, Mathai Kolath George.
George’s husband, a local hotel owner, and their 11-year-old son were killed in a June 2009 plane crash into the Mohawk River.
“V.M.” lived with and worked for the family from 2005 until agents removed her from Llenroc in May 2011.
Annie George was formally charged in U.S. District Court last February, then indicted in April. She denies the allegations.
She is represented by attorney Mark Sacco, who could not be reached for comment for this story.
Trial is expected to last about three days, according to the prosecution.
If convicted, George faces prison time. The prosecution is also seeking the mansion itself, if she is convicted, though what stake, if any, the family has in the mansion is unclear. It is officially owned by an LLC and more than $250,000 in back taxes on the sprawling mansion was unpaid this past spring.
Details of case
The recent court filing, called a trial memorandum, outlines the history of the case in detail, from how prosecutors allege the servant came to be employed by the Georges to how she was rescued.
It was through “V.M.’s” adult son, identified as Shiju Mathai, that investigators began looking into the case. The son is no relation to George or her late husband Mathai Kolath George.
In March 2011, the son, living in India, contacted the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, also known as the Polaris Project. The agency helps in recovery of victims of human trafficking.
He told the project his mother needed to be rescued from “overly arduous working conditions,” according to the prosecution.
The agency referred the case to the Department of Homeland Security office in Albany.
By April 2011, investigators learned that “V.M.” was a widowed, middle-aged citizen of India. She also came to the United States in 1998 on a visa that was no longer valid.
She had legally worked for a family associated with the United Nations, from 1998 to October 2005. She then left that family with no notice, investigators learned.
On May 3, 2011, investigators went to Llenroc to find her. They were met by a woman who claimed not to know “V.M.” and claimed that “V.M.” was not there.
Investigators, however, refused to leave without the woman, and she was produced. Investigators then had to demand “V.M.’s” personal belongings. Once satisfied, they left with “V.M.” and her belongings.
The whole process took about 1 hour and 38 minutes.
Hired by Georges
“V.M.” soon told investigators she had worked with the United Nations family, earning about $250 to $350 per month. Then, in October 2005, a man approached her, speaking her dialect of Hindi and saying she should come with him.
They traveled to a house in Catskill where she met Annie George and her husband. Mathai George then offered to pay her $1,000 per month to work for them as a live-in domestic servant.
She agreed and cared for up to six of the family’s children at one time. Her immigration status was never adjusted.
“V.M.” then moved with the family to a larger home in Menands and then, in August 2008, to Llenroc. During the 66 months she worked for the family, she worked every day, nearly all day, the prosecution says.
“V.M. was only permitted to go outside of the residence(s) if all of the work was done — a situation that rarely, if ever, occurred.”
During off time, V.M. was allowed to use a calling card to phone her sons in India.
Though she was never explicitly forbidden from leaving Llenroc, she had no means to do so, no bank account, no passport or identification documents.
She would occasionally go with the family to the local Walmart, where she would look after the children while the family was inside. Through the oral agreement, “V.M.” should have been paid $66,000 during her time with the family. “V.M.” told investigators she was actually paid less than half that.
If she was paid minimum wage for her entire work with the family, she would have been owed more than $300,000, the document reads.
George also well knew of “V.M.’s” immigration status, the document reads. She told “V.M.” in 2008 that she couldn’t attend her son’s wedding in India because she had no documents.