Wisconsin businessman charged with holding woman as his sex slave

BROOKFIELD, Wis. -- A Brookfield, Wisconsin businessman is charged with sexual abuse and forced labor. His alleged victim is an immigrant from India.

Investigators said Shinda Bhatia took the woman's passport, then forced her to work for him and have sex with him for two years, from 2009-2011.

According to federal agents, Bhatia knew the woman was here illegally and helped her stay in the country, while he took advantage of her, and constantly threatened to turn her in.

Bhatia owns at least four rental properties and five gas stations in Milwaukee.

Authorities intend to seize that station, and any other properties that are traceable to the crimes he's charged with, including harboring an immigrant for financial gain, sexual abuse and slavery.

Rachel Monaco-Wilcox, the founder of Lotus Legal Clinic, represents victims of sex and labor trafficking free of charge.

"This is an issue in our community that's unfortunately more common than most people think," she said. "It can be happening next door, and you don't realize it. It's not uncommon for a trafficker to use the fact that they have that person's passport and say, 'You know, if you go to authorities, I'm going to tell them that you're illegal, and that you need to be deported.' And who are they going to believe? An undocumented person, or what appears to be an upstanding business owner in the community with a track record of paying taxes?"

Bhatia lives in Brookfield. Milwaukee-based TMJ4 went to his house, but no one answered the door. Neighbors are shocked to hear of the charges, saying they often see Bhatia with his wife and older children. 

The FBI is not revealing how they found out about Bhatia's victim.

"Whether someone said 'I saw this occur, and I'm worried about this women? Or whether she was so violently assaulted that she ran for help and was at a rape crisis center reporting. We don't know," Monaco-Wilcox said. "The important thing now is to make sure she's protected through this process."

If convicted on all charges, Bhatia could get life in prison. Right now, he's free on bond.

 

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