A hotel manager in Bartow County pleaded guilty today to trafficking with respect to peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or forced labor.
According to court documents, Shreesh Tiwari, 70, an Indian national and legal U.S. permanent resident, began managing the Budgetel Motel on Carson Loop off Cass White Road in 2020. Tiwari hired the victim to work as a house cleaner at the motel. Tiwari knew that, prior to arriving at the Budgetel, the victim had experienced homelessness, struggled with a heroin addiction and lost custody of her young child. Tiwari promised the victim that he would help her regain custody of her child by providing her with pay, an apartment, and an attorney.
Instead of following through with his promises, Tiwari monitored the victim’s interactions with motel guests and employees and forbade her from speaking to them. Tiwari also made numerous sexual overtures to the victim. When Tiwari became angry at the victim, he threatened to evict her from the room he offered her at the Budgetel, knowing that she would become homeless as a result. Tiwari also threatened to report the victim’s drug use to law enforcement or child welfare agencies whenever he was angry at her. Eventually, Tiwari began to regularly “evict” the victim from her motel room, and even locked her out of her room at night without warning. Tiwari later required the victim to perform oral sex on him to stay at the motel. If she did not, Tiwari removed her from the property, causing her to be homeless.
“Human trafficking is an abhorrent crime in which traffickers specifically identify and target the most vulnerable members of our society, often using fraudulent promises to offer hope to someone in need,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This conviction demonstrates that the Justice Department is committed to prosecuting motel operators and other landlords who misuse and abuse their position of power over tenants to compel them to engage in commercial sex acts.”
“Victims of sex trafficking crimes are some of the most vulnerable individuals in our communities and they are targeted by traffickers as a result,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan for the Northern District of Georgia. “We refuse to tolerate human trafficking of any kind and this conviction reinforces our commitment to protecting all victims of crime in our community – regardless of their status.”
“Prosecuting human traffickers and rescuing human trafficking victims is a top priority of this office and the Department of Homeland Security,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Travis Pickard of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Atlanta Field Office. “This guilty plea highlights that commitment and serves as a warning to other predators that law enforcement is determined to find, arrest and punish those involved in this heinous crime.”
Sentencing is set for Sept. 6. Tiwari faces a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison, as well as a $250,000 fine. As part of his plea agreement, Tiwari agreed to pay slightly over $40,000 in mandatory restitution to the victims of offense. A federal judge will determine any sentence based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Clarke, U.S. Attorney Buchanan and Acting Special Agent in Charge Pickard made the announcement.
The Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations Dalton Office investigated the case, with assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leanne Marek and Annalise Peters for the Northern District of Georgia and Trial Attorney Kate Hill of the Justice Department’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit are prosecuting the case.
Anyone who has information about human trafficking should report that information to the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information about human trafficking, please visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org. Information on the Department of Justice’s efforts to combat human trafficking can be found at www.justice.gov/humantrafficking.