Federal prosecutors announced today that a wealthy December/May couple from Long Island has been accused of keeping slaves—no they’re not pre-Civil War remnants. Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 35, and her husband Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani, 51, live together in a $2.5 million house in a very exclusive North Shore community, but may soon be going to the biggest house of all (I’m referring to the big house) after facing arraignment in U.S. District Court in Central Islip on charges they kept two Indonesian women whom they had hired as domestic help against their will for the past five years.
The women, identified in court papers as “Samirah” and “Nona,”’ say they were promised the piddling sum of $200 and $100 a month, but it seems the Sabhnanis refused to pay them even that, beat them and kept them from leaving the house—pretty much your traditional heinous slave-keeping stuff. But the accused also got viciously creative, throwing scalding water on the women, forced them to repeatedly climb up and down stairs, to eat 25 hot chili peppers in one sitting and to take as many as 30 showers in three hours (weird).
Authorities uncovered the abuse after police found one of the women wandering outside a coffee shop on Mother’s Day, wearing only pants and a towel. Authorities executing a search warrant at the Sabhnani home later that day discovered the second woman hiding in a 3-by-3-foot closet.
Photo of Harriet Tubman