Jury delivers verdict in case of illegal servant at Rexford mans - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Jury delivers verdict in case of illegal servant at Rexford mansion

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Annie George talks with her lawyer outside of court in July 2012. Annie George talks with her lawyer outside of court in July 2012.
Llenroc Mansion in Rexford. Llenroc Mansion in Rexford.

ALBANY, N.Y. - Annie George, the Rexford woman accused of cheating an Indian household servant out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay and keeping her a virtual prisoner inside her Llenroc Mansion, has been found guilty on the charge of Harboring an Illegal Alien, but not guilty on the more serious charge of Harboring an Illegal Alien for Financial Gain.

The immigrant, Valsamma Mathai, testified that she slept in a closet, worked long days without vacation, days off or sick time and wasn't allowed to leave the property.

The defense lawyer for a George, Mark Sacco, says she didn't know her Indian servant was in the country illegally and treated her as a member of the family.

Sacco says 40-year-old George was a traditional Indian wife and mother who deferred to her husband on all decisions and was cruelly punished if she didn't. When he died in a plane crash, George was left with a pile of debt.

But in the prosecutor's closing statement Thursday, they say George knew or should have known that her servant was in the country illegally.

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

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

George is charged with harboring an illegal immigrant for financial gain, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine upon conviction.

She repeatedly broke down in tears on the witness stand Wednesday, saying 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 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 in 2009 along with his 11-year-old son and another man when their private plane crashed after takeoff west of Schenectady.

Valsamma Mathai came to the United States legally on a limited visa about 12 years ago after her husband died of cancer, leaving her the sole provider for her two sons and ailing mother. When she left a family she originally worked for, she violated the terms of her limited visa.

Under cross-examination Thursday, George says she did not warn the servant's son about dire consequences if his mother spoke of working in the household. In the call, the woman also appears to acknowledge she knew Mathai was in the country illegally.

George repeated her claim that she didn't mistreat Mathai during the 5-and-a-half years she worked in her 30,000-square-foot Llenroc mansion in suburban Rexford.

George claims the recording of a woman talking to Mathai's son, Shiju, was not her voice.

The jury in the federal case began deliberations Thursday afternoon.

About three hours after the jury took the case, the foreperson sent a note to the judge asking for read-back of testimony in which George referred to Mathai as "the maid" and possibly asked about Mathai's passport.

Sentencing has been set for July 9th. George faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.

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