CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. – A federal judge refused to grant bail to a millionaire couple accused of keeping two Indonesian women as slaves in their mansion for five years, finding that no conditions would be suitable for house arrest.
Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Platt indicated he might be willing to released Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 35, and Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani, 51, on $3.5 million bail if attorneys could agree on house arrest conditions.
The judge held several hearings but ultimately found on Monday that because the Sabhnanis present a "risk of flight, no such conditions or combination of conditions would adequately assure the presence of the defendants" at future court dates.
Attorneys for the Sabhnanis said they intend to appeal. The defense has argued that the couple, who run a perfume business from their Muttontown home, frequently traveled and the two Indonesian women could have left at any time.
"This case is long on spin and short on truth," said Stephen Scaring, Mahender Sabhnani's lawyer.
The Sabhnanis, U.S. citizens from Indonesia and India, have pleaded not guilty to a federal court indictment accusing them of slavery and harboring undocumented citizens in their Muttontown mansion. Their trial is set for Sept. 10.
They were arrested May 13 after one of the women was found wandering outside a doughnut shop, muttering that she had been injured and wanted to return to her native country. The woman apparently had fled the home that night while putting out the trash, prosecutors said. The second woman was found when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents searched the home.
Both women told prosecutors they had been mentally and physically abused and were paid almost nothing for the services as domestic servants.
The Sabhnanis, in their bid for bail, had agreed to have security officers monitor the entrances and have restrictions on their phone and Internet access. They also would have been subjected to electronic monitoring and only permitted to leave for doctor's appointments or to see their lawyers. The security detail, to be paid by the couple, was estimated at $15,000 a day.