Testifying in federal court Tuesday, a woman claimed that her employer, upstate New York millionaire Annie George, paid her far less than promised and made her sleep on the floor of a closet for years.
"I had to escape from there," Valsamma Mathai, a native of India, said in court, according to the Albany Times Union. She also said she couldn't leave the property or talk to the family's friends.
According to a complaint filed in 2011, Mathai worked seven days a week for 67 months as a cook, maid and nanny for George's six children. She was paid less than $15 dollars a day, amounting to a meager $29,000 overall. The complaint also notes that Mathai is owed a minimum of $206,000 for her years of toil.
Mathai's criminally low wages are made more absurd by the opulence of George's 30,000 square-foot Rexford, N.Y., estate, known as the Llenroc mansion ("Cornell" spelled backwards). The massive house boasts a sailboat-shaped indoor pool, a helipad and a heated driveway.
Mathai, who the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says is an undocumented immigrant, was freed from Llenroc in May 2011, after DHS agents responded to a tip from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline that she was allegedly being "kept in a forced labor situation."
When the DHS agents showed up at the estate, George reportedly tried to hide Mathai in the basement.
George is being charged with harboring an undocumented immigrant. If convicted, she could serve up to 10 years in prison and pay a $250,000 fine, the Albany Times Union reported.
Annie George's husband, Mathai George, died in a 2009 plane crash with the couple's oldest son. Both Annie George and her husband are from the region of Kerala in India, where Valsamma Mathai is also from. The three spoke the same Indian language, Malayalam, while Mathai was working for the couple, according to the court claim.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Malayalam is a language, not a dialect, as the court claim says.