Annie George, a New York millionaire, is on trial for the slave-like conditions of her former employee, Valsamma Mathai of Kerala, India. Mathai testified to the harsh conditions in court, and George is being held for one count of harboring an illegal alien for financial gain.
Annie George, also known as Annie Kolath, hired Mathai in 2005 for house work at her 26-room mansion in Rexford, N.Y. However, after being able to account for $24,000 of total by 2011, Mathai's son, Shiju Mathai, contacted an international human trafficking organization. May 3, 2011, federal agents came to the home and removed Valsamma, and an investigation began, according to The Albany Times-Union.
49-year-old Mathai testified in court about her slave-like working conditions, including being forced to sleep in a closet, working from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day, never being able to leave the house, receiving no vacation or days off, and cooking, cleaning, and dressing six children. She said she was supposed to receive $1,000 a month, but sometimes ended up with as little as $30.
"I had to escape from there, I'd be working there until I died," she told the court through a translator Tuesday. "I told her many times it was too much work."
Mathai said she came to start working for the Georges in 2005, when Annie George's husband, Mathai Kolath George, was still alive- he and one of his sons died in a plane crash in 2009. Valsamma Mathai was working in New York City when she said she met a man at a bus stop who promised her a husband and a good-paying job. He later brought her to the Georges.
Valsamma Mathai also said the reason she had not left earlier was because of the wages she was owed. Although she estimated to be owed $40,000, the U.S. Department of Labor puts the figure much higher- $317,144.09, to be exact.
In a surprise move, Annie George testified in her own defense, saying Mathai came to her home through a pastor she knew. The man allegedly told the Georges Mathai was living in a shelter after a bad domestic situation and needed work.
"Whatever she did, she did on her own," George testified. "There were no assignments. I never gave her a list. I treated her like family."
The widow also claimed that she never asked Mathai about her status as an illegal immigrant in the 6-and-a-half years she worked in the manor, according to The Troy Record. She also was unaware of any agreement for $1,000 a month.
"We helped her out like you do with family. [My husband] gave [Math and her two sons in India] plenty of money. She could have left at any time," George insisted.
Mathai has currently been given temporary working papers by authorities, and earns $600 every two weeks working at a local hospital.