Nov 20, 2013 7:51 PM
Employees at several Lexington Subway restaurants were arrested Tuesday following a lengthy investigation into human trafficking allegations.
Court documents released Wednesday shed new light on the arrests of Amrutlal Patel and his wife, Dakshaben Patel, at their Ellerslie Park Boulevard home Tuesday morning.
LEX 18 was on scene when authorities raided the Patels' home and the Subway restaurant on East Main Street - one of at least three Lexington restaurants co-owned by Amrutlal Patel and a relative. However, authorities refused to tell reporter Josh Breslow what they were investigating or what the Patels were charged with.
According to the newly released records, the Patels are facing federal charges of "bringing in and harboring aliens," which carries a potential 10-year sentence. Three undocumented immigrants from India, who were working for Amrutlal Patel, also were taken into custody.
According to U.S. District Court records, the investigation began in August after an employee at Subway filed a report with Lexington police about some "bad things" happening to his coworkers.
The unidentified witness "provided information that Amrutlal Patel and his wife Dakshaben Patel and others known and unknown are ‘forcing' four undocumented Indian citizens to work, and housing some of them in a hidden room located in the couple's home," the affidavit said.
The witness told police an undocumented worker named "Danny" had asked him to go to authorities because he and other undocumented employees were allegedly being mistreated.
Danny told the witness that he could not go to the police himself because he was being monitored by the Patels, according to court documents. Danny said he and three others were forced to live in a secret room behind the wall of the Patel's basement bathroom, and that the Patels sometimes withheld food from them and hit them, the records said.
Danny also asked the witness to wire $1,000 to a relative in India, which the witness did, the documents said. Danny said he and another employee were in debt to the Patels for tens of thousands of dollars for their trips to the United States.
The complaint sparked a three-month investigation by Lexington police, state officials and a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Police detectives monitored Patel's Subway locations at 500 West New Circle, 360 Southland Drive and 630 East Main Street, as well as their Ellerslie Park Boulevard home and an apartment on Southland Drive which Amrutlal Patel rented for two other employees.
Police began conducting undercover surveillance on several of the Subway locations to determine the identities of the people who worked there. Several times, officers conducted traffic stops on the owners and employees as they came and went.
On Oct. 9, an officer pulled over a moped carrying one of the employees who allegedly lived at the Patel's Ellerslie Park Boulevard home. When the officer asked the employee who the moped belonged to, he replied "my owners," according to court documents.
On Tuesday, authorities executed search warrants at the Patel's home and stores, hauling out boxes of evidence and taking several people into custody.
When police raided the Patel's home, Danny was in an upstairs bedroom. He denied to police he had been mistreated, the document said. The affidavit did not say whether a secret room was found in the basement.
The Patels were being held at the Fayette County Detention Center. It was unclear where the three employees who were arrested were being held.