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Restaurant Owner Forced Cook To Work For 3 Years Without Pay, Deputies Say

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A Santa Clarita Valley restaurant owner was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly forcing his cook to work for three years without pay.

Authorities took 47-year-old Pardeep Kumar into custody around 4:30 p.m. at his restaurant located on the 23000 block of Valencia Blvd., according to City News Service. Although officials did not name the restaurant, witnesses told the Santa Clarita Valley Signal that they saw the owner of Tandoori Grill located at 23360 Valencia Blvd. get arrested. Sheriff's deputies from the Major Crimes Bureau and the Human Trafficking Task Force investigated the employee after receiving a tip from the cook's brother, who had sent officials an email about it from Mumbai, India.

The cook, who has not been named, told the Los Angeles Sheriff's Dept. that he was basically being treated as a slave over the years and detailed the nightmarish conditions he had to live through. He said he worked seven days a week for 12 to 14 hours a day, was physically assaulted if he made mistakes, had to live with the owner and travel to and from work with him, and wasn't allowed to speak to anyone else.

Kumar was booked at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station for mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon, involuntary servitude and human trafficking. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

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Just last week, a group of former and current Filipino workers of L'Amande French Bakery in Beverly Hills and Torrance filed a lawsuit against the owners for labor violations and human trafficking, according to the L.A. Times. They said the owners, Ana and Goncal Moitinho de Almeida, only paid them each $100 for a month's worth of work. The employees had to work 17-hour days and would receive no overtime, the complaint said. They said that the owners duped them into coming to the U.S. with the promise of making more money.

Those employees worked under a temporary worker visa program, and could be easily exploited since they aren't allowed to change jobs. Nicole Gon Ochi, an attorney with the Los Angeles chapter of Asian Americans Advancing Justice who helped file the lawsuit, said: "Workers are trapped. They're stuck between a rock and a hard place because their status is tied to their employer."

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