Kerala woman to lose US mansion for keeping illegal immigrant

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015,20:24 IST By metrovaartha A A A

New York | An Indian-American widow will have to forfeit her 34-room mansion in New York state after she lost her appeal to overturn a 2013 conviciton for harbouring an illegal immigrant from Kerala for over five years and subjecting her to slave-like conditions.
Annie George, who hailed from Kerala, had challenged a lower court’s order she give up her opulent crib in Rexford, arguing that the jury had not been properly instructed on the legal definition of harboring Valsamma Mathai, also from Kerala, as a live-in maid starting in 2005. She also said forfeiture of the home, named Llenroc, was too harsh of a punishment.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, however, disagreed. A three-judge panel on the Second Circuit of the US Court of Appeals pronounced its verdict yesterday that the trial court judge was correct to rule that George must forfeit the mansion to the federal government. The forfeiture of George’s equity interest in her home, when considered in light of the gravity of her crime of conviction, does not demonstrate gross disproportionality, Appeals Judge Reena Raggi wrote last week.
Authorities said George worked the woman non-stop. George was convicted in March 2013 of harboring Mathai from 2005 to 2011 in several homes. She was in the country illegally. At trial, prosecutors presented evidence Mathai worked 17-hour days with no time off or sick leave and slept in a closet at Llenroc. Mathai cared for George’s five kids and took care of the house from generally 5:30 am to 11:30 pm seven days a week with no time off, according to documents.
George never paid Mathai her promised USD 1,000 per month wage over five years. Instead, Mathai received around USD 26,000 total, court papers charge. Mathai said she slept in a closet and was forbidden from leaving the 20,000-square-foot mansion overlooking the Mohawk River. George, whose husband died in a plane crash, had said she did not know Mathai was in the United States illegally.