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Annie George Guilty: Woman Accused Of Enslaving Valsamma Mathai Guilty Of Keeping Illegal Immigrant

Posted by on Mar. 9, 2013 at 5:40 PM
  • 8 Replies

ALBANY, N.Y. -- 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.

On Thursday, George said a tape recording of a phone call between a woman and Shiju Mathai, which prosecutors played Wednesday, wasn't her voice. She didn't say who she thought the voice belonged to.

On the call, the woman warns Shiju Mathai there could be dire consequences, even jail time, for his mother if she were to tell authorities about working in the United States.

George testified that she was left in desperate financial straits when her husband died in 2009. She said she knew nothing of his business dealings, including the arrangement to have Valsamma Mathai live with them, because he required her to stick to her duties as his wife and mother of their six children and severely punished her if she tried to make any decisions in the home.

Her late husband, Mathai George, was a native of India who built a hotel and real estate development business in the United States. He was killed along with his 11-year-old son and another man when their private plane crashed after takeoff.

Sacco, in closing arguments, said Annie George deferred to her husband on all decisions.

"The government is prosecuting Annie George because Mathai George isn't here," Sacco said.

He suggested Shiju Mathai launched the investigation because he was unhappy that his mother was sending less money home after Mathai George died.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Belliss said Annie George was an intelligent woman with a graduate degree in pharmacy who, even if she didn't directly know Valsamma Mathai's immigration status, was smart enough to figure it out.

Prosecutors had no immediate comment after Friday's verdict.

Valsamma Mathai, who was not in court Friday, came to the United States legally on a visa and stayed with another family after her husband died of cancer, leaving her the sole provider for her two sons and ailing mother. When she left that family her status was illegal because it violated the terms of the visa, Belliss said.

A business associate testified Wednesday that Mathai George left six hotels, all in foreclosure or bankrupt and in poor condition. Several friends of Annie George said when they visited it appeared Valsamma Mathai was a member of the family, rather than a servant, and George's children called her grandmother.

by on Mar. 9, 2013 at 5:40 PM
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Replies (1-8):
annabl1970
by Platinum Member on Mar. 9, 2013 at 5:48 PM

Something doesn't add up here. She was left in desperate financial state but still managed to live 26-bedroom mansion? How is that she didn't keep poor woman for " financial gain"? She got full-time housekeeper and babysitter for 6 kids and paid her less that $500/month, the average full-time housekeeper at least should make $1500-2500/month. This woman saved approximately $63000 in five years- How is she didn't gain financially over this?

annabl1970
by Platinum Member on Mar. 9, 2013 at 5:50 PM

Annie George Slave

annabl1970
by Platinum Member on Mar. 9, 2013 at 5:50 PM

 

Llenroc mansion in Rexford, N.Y., was the home of Annie George and her late husband, Mathai George, while they allegedly kept an immigrant woman as a "slave" for years, paying her less than $15 a day. (Photo credit: Skip Dickstein, Times Union)

Quoting annabl1970:

Annie George Slave


 

GOBryan
by Silver Member on Mar. 9, 2013 at 5:59 PM

It takes a while for a foreclosure to complete and she had attorneys so that delays any foreclosure, especially in NY where there must be thousands of cases. I'm sure she had money for a while after her husband's passing also so it likely didn't reach foreclosure for some time. 

Donna6503
by Platinum Member on Mar. 9, 2013 at 6:02 PM
2 moms liked this
It pays to have good lawyers.
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FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Mar. 9, 2013 at 6:26 PM

Any grown woman who is not aware of the business dealings of her husband should indeed wise up and make sure you are indeed aware.  Whether he instructs you to or otherwise.  Or, you end up like this woman claims and ignorant to any truth yet you can indeed be held accountable.

I do not doubt that this woman, this illegal immigrant, was mistreated.  Many are because, after all, they are less than human considering they are illegal.

Now, that does not take away from this woman leaving one job, which she held a legal visa for, going else where and then headed under the illegal status.  There should be consequences for making that decision.

But being treated as she was should not be a consequence that is accepted by any one.  


FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Mar. 9, 2013 at 6:27 PM
1 mom liked this

I also am not buying in to the 'dire financial state'.  What she considers dire is not reality for many.

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