Attorney: Women Were Promised The American Dream

ROSLYN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Some shocking allegations were levied on Friday as two immigrants from India said they were held hostage for years in an upscale home by a doctor and his family.

Harit “Potee” Saluja said she was stunned she, her husband, Dr. Dhanbir Saluja, and his mother are being accused of harboring slaves in their home.

“You know, sometimes people do come to live with you. It’s not like you don’t be kind.  This is the result of kindness. Anyway, I can’t talk anymore,” Saluja told CBS 2’s Emily Smith.

Two female immigrants from India say the Salujas held them against their will for years, forcing them to sleep in the basement of their house.

Their attorney said it began in 1999 when Potee Saluja’s mother went to India and recruited the women on a false promise they’d live the American dream.

“[They were] working oppressive hours. One of our plaintiffs was paid $150 per month the other plaintiff as little as $300 per month,” attorney Amy Young said.

The complaint describes a day in the life of Monkia Akka and Leela Kumari. Among the allegations, Young said the women were forced to cook meals in the garage without heat and do heavy duty landscaping.

“Always on call, always providing personal services to Mrs. Saluja and Dr. Saluja. You know, tea service, being called upon,” Young said.

Young said the women escaped in 2008 by writing a note to the Salujas saying they were going to church — despite a house rule that they weren’t allowed to leave.

“They decided they could not endure the conditions anymore, so they never went back,” Young said.

Potee Saluja said multiple times Friday she’s being taken advantage of for her kindness, but the allegations against the Salujas tell the story of a well-to-do North Shore family taking advantage of two people.

In the 25-page complaint they talk about the emotional hardships they faced. They are seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and lost wages.

The women also say the Salujas helped them obtain their visas before coming to the United States — and then took them away.

This is not the first case of alleged worker slavery. In March, four members of a Rockland County family were charged with holding a woman as a sex slave and servant, accused of physically and sexually abusing her.

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