The pitfalls of prosecuting Devyani on Sangeeta’s word

    “Trafficking” this is not, but “Amnesty” for an illegal alien it is, including, paid-for family reunification

    It is a fact that passports come in three “colors”: Red-for diplomatic; White for official; and Blue for everyday citizen. The colors become important, as is the fact that a person may only have one passport at a time – i.e. if you have a White passport, you no longer have a valid Blue passport. To start comprehending this Devyani Odyssey, it is important to recall that according to press reports, Philip Richard, Sangeeta’s husband, was employed by US Embassy in Delhi as a driver – perhaps for Wayne May.

    According to the Indictment (Ind.), Sangeeta and Devyani arrived at their “final” bargained-for deal prior to October 15, 2012 for 30,000 rupees a month, with Sangeeta, exercising free will, refused the original 20,000 Rupees a month (Ind. at 13). Sangeeta, after cutting her 30,000 Rupees deal gave Devyani her personal “Blue” passport, which the Indictment charges, Devyani never returned to Sangeeta (Ind. at 14). Contrary to press reports, the Indictment makes clear that the IP address used by Devyani to get her own A-1 visa on September 27, 2012, was the same one used to apply on October 15, 2012 for Sangeeta – and admits that the “$4500 monthly income” was not applicable to either Sangeeta’s expected pay or Devyani’s income (Ind at 10 and15).

    Sangeeta Richard

    On November 1, 2012, Sangeeta, without Devyani present, appeared at the US Embassy for her 1st Interview, but without any written contract was rebuffed (Ind. at 17). Then, Sangeeta and Devyani, knowing their actual deal, jointly, willingly and voluntarily entered on November 11, 2012 into a so-called Fake Employment Contract (Ind. at Ex. “E”) to deceive the US Embassy, when Sangeeta, again alone, went for her 2nd Interview on November 14, 2012 and successfully lied to the US Embassy, such that her visa application was processed and granted on November 15, 2012 (Ind. at 18 – 28.) Then, hours before Devyani and Sangeeta left for New York on the morning of November 24, 2012, they entered into a written contract on November 23, 2012 (True Employment contract) that memorialized the original and actual October agreement between the two: 30,000 Rupees a month (Ind. at 29 – 37, and Ex. “F”).

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    Relying solely upon Sangeeta’s unadorned word, the Indictment accuses Devyani of overworking and exploiting Sangeeta, and lists hours Sangeeta claims to have worked – as much as “94 to 109” hours a week, including, Sundays (Ind. at 38 – 41). To challenge the hours claimed by an employee, and a domestic worker have been known to lie – as I successfully exposed while representing then-CG Amb. Dayal that she was not sleeping in a closet but a studio apartment and suffered from sexual fantasies and indeed, within 2 weeks those allegations were dropped from the amended complaint. Lurking, however, is a latent problem: the powerful Confrontation Clause would ultimately require the diplomat-employer to confront the employee with the diplomat’s Office’s officially immune and confidential calendar to establish the hours actually worked, except that no government, who owns that office calendar, would permit its use and spill into the public record their official meetings.

    Per the Indictment, Sangeeta wanted to go back to India starting February 2013, and ultimately, coming to CGI in June 2013 – but lacking money and her “personal” passport, could not (Ind. at 42-43). So, on June 22, 2013, she left her place of employment and went AWOL (Ind. at 44). On November 19, 2013, an arrest warrant was issued in India charging Sangeeta with extortion, cheating, and participating in a conspiracy based upon the July 3, 2013 FIR filed in India (Ind. at 48 – 49 and Ex. “G”), which lists the 30,000 Rupees a month deal and that Sangeeta disappeared with her Official passport, after being told she cannot work during her “off days” outside her legal employment to earn extra monies. Indeed, the Indictment states that Devyani alleged that Sangeeta (Accused #1) always intended, [obviously, unbeknownst to Devyani], to use Devyani to gain entrance into the United States.

    Indeed, Devyani filed a motion in Delhi High Court, which attached the so-called Fake Employment contract as well as her FIR, which listed the actual agreement of 30,000 Rupees (albeit, Devyani did not provide the High Court with the November 23, 2012 so-called True Contract with 30,000 Rupees a month payment). The FIR also listed Sangeeta’s husband, Philip, as Accused #2. And as to Count Two, False Statement, the Indictment charges Devyani alone for the false statements made during both Interviews by Sangeeta, when Sangeeta alone went for her interviews. The core problem here is that Sangeeta willfully, voluntarily and with free will entered into three contracts: an oral contract, followed by two written agreements, with the first and third contracts each calling for 30,000 Rupees to be paid per month. Then, Sangeeta, alone, was twice was interviewed by the US Embassy to negotiate the fraud upon the US Embassy, aided by her-executed Fake Contract, and Sangeeta did so successfully.

    Of course, once Sangeeta agreed to work as Devyani’s domestic worker, Sangeeta gave her “Blue” passport to Devyani, who then got Sangeeta her Official “White” passport, with obvious “cancellation” of the Blue passport. Sangeeta then traveled on her White passport on November 24, 2013 to New York, and which was missing, as reported in the FIR when Sangeeta left Devyani’s employ in June 2013. Hence, the claim that Devyani, was somehow preventing Sangeeta from traveling on her Blue passport is incomprehensible – as Sangeeta had her White passport, which Sangeeta knew, she could not use to go back to India, given her violation of her employment-terms. Additionally, with an arrest warrant for Sangeeta issued on November 19, 2013 by the Delhi High Court and her husband listed as an Accused #2, Sangeeta’s claimed desire to return to India is not credible.

    Finally, since Philip Richard was in the employ of the US Embassy in Delhi, Sangeeta was always empowered to seek advice and counsel from Philip’s employer, prior to her entering into two contracts for 30,000 Rupees, both before and after the Fake Contract. That Sangeeta’s family was flown out of Delhi, “evacuated,” on December 10, 2013, per press reports at American taxpayer expense, and also granted a T-Visa like Sangeeta, while legal proceedings were already under way in India is troubling beyond the moment, as it affronts sovereignty and comity of nations – while extrajudicially accepting Sangeeta as a “victim” and preventing the Indian court, in its first-filed case, to be deprived of the presence of Accused #2 – Philip Richard. The law is a splendored thing, as it can also be, as Dickens in Oliver Twist eloquently said, “an ass”: “If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is an ass-an idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience-by experience.”

    That our State Department required our Justice Department to file criminal charges against Devyani, while giving Sangeeta and family a T-visa, under these circumstances is nothing short of an avoidable itch becoming a roaring rash. Sinful human trafficking, modern day slavery, this is not – no matter the powerful incentive of getting a T-visa causing one to fake being trafficked. Now, hopefully, a generous dose of an ointment, consisting of a small amount of amnesia and a large amount of bilateral mutual respect, will get this vital relationship between the united States and India to an even stronger footing – similar to the one we have with Israel – then reciprocity can give way to the wiser sibling, proportionality and we can get the “optics” of security barriers being reinstalled in Delhi and Washington DC.

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