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Rexford widow convicted of charge servant was illegal

Saturday, March 09, 2013 - Updated: 4:49 PM

ALBANY (AP) -- A hotelier's widow who had been accused of cheating an Indian household servant out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and keeping her a virtual prisoner at a mansion was found guilty Friday of knowingly keeping the woman in the country illegally but won't have to pay her.

Annie George, whose husband died in a plane crash, had said she didn't know Valsamma Mathai was in the United States illegally. She also said she didn't mistreat Mathai during the 5 1/2 years she worked in her 20,000-square-foot home in suburban Rexford, near Albany.

Mathai had testified that she slept in a closet, worked long days without vacation, days off or sick time and wasn't allowed to leave the palatial stone mansion on a cliff overlooking the Mohawk River.

Federal prosecutors had said George owed Mathai $317,000, based on the minimum wage and overtime for the hours she worked. Mathai said she was paid only $26,000, much of which she sent to her family in India.

But because the jury didn't find George guilty of keeping Mathai for financial gain, the original charge, she won't be liable for the wages, said George's lawyer, Mark Sacco.

George, 40, was convicted of harboring an illegal immigrant. She faces a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine at her July 9 sentencing. She remains free on bail.

George did not answer questions as she left the court, but Sacco said she was devastated. She's now left trying to raise five children and maintain a struggling business.

Sacco noted the jury did not convict her of the more severe charge.

"I think, in many ways, Annie feels vindicated because what a lot of the reports were was that she mistreated this woman and mistreated this woman like a slave," Sacco said. "None of that was true."

The case surfaced when one of Mathai's sons in India, Shiju Mathai, called the National Human Trafficking Resources Center in 2011.

     

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