Prosecutor: Couple paid no overtime, withheld no taxes for workers' 10-, 12-hour days in Lexington restaurants

Amrutlal Patel, left, and Dakshaben Patel.
Amrutlal Patel, left, and Dakshaben Patel.

Undocumented Indian nationals worked 10- and 12-hour days up to seven days a week at four Lexington Subways, but received no overtime, prosecutors said Monday.

That provided a "substantial financial gain" for their employers, Amrutlal Patel and his wife, Dakshaben Patel, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee Hawkins argued during a hearing in federal court. The couple have been charged with knowingly and willfully harboring undocumented Indian nationals employed in their Lexington restaurants.

In addition to no overtime pay, there were no federal taxes withheld for the workers, who were simply paid by the month with handwritten checks.

The information surfaced during a daylong hearing on whether the Patels should be kept at the Fayette County Detention Center, where they've been held since their arrests early last week.

After hearing lengthy arguments for and against releasing the couple, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Wier likely will rule before Thanksgiving.

Federal prosecutors argued there is a strong risk the Patels, who are from India, would flee the United States for India, or elsewhere, if they are released. The Patels have large amounts of cash available from their businesses, and have sent about $100,000 back to India, the prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys argued, however, that the Patels have no reason to flee because their business interests are in Lexington and their two children are in high school here. The defense also said the couple came to the United States in about 2006, hoping to become citizens. The two have been in the country almost long enough to apply for citizenship.

Defense attorneys also told Wier Monday that the Patels would be willing to accept any conditions he might impose, including home incarceration.

Arguments in the case revealed stark contrasts.

Hawkins portrayed the defendants Monday as criminals who took advantage of the Indian undocumented workers, paying them far less than they should have earned.

But attorney Mark Wohlander, representing Dakshaben Patel, countered that she and her husband simply were trying to help fellow Indian nationals by providing them jobs. Extending a helping hand is a tenet of the Patels' Hindu faith, Wohlander said.

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