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California restaurateur Pardeep Kumar of Tandoori Grill released after being accused of human trafficking, torture, assault

Allegedly victimized a chef from India; but not charged.

By Raif Karerat

WASHINGTON, DC: An Indian national was allegedly held captive by a restaurant-owner in Valencia, California who claimed he was beaten and forced him to cook up to 16 hours a day sans pay. The allegations say he was so frightened of his boss that he feared for his life if he ever tried to escape.

The victim’s overseer, 47-year-old Pardeep Kumar, of Newhall, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of human trafficking, torture, assault with a deadly weapon, mayhem, and involuntary servitude, according to Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Major Crimes Bureau Capt. Merrill Ladenheim.

The identity of the 55-year-old victim was not released, but the Los Angeles Times reported that he came to the United States specifically to work at Kumar’s restaurant, the Tandoori Grill located in the 2330 block of Valencia Boulevard.

Upon arrival, Kumar allegedly confiscated the man’s passport and beat him with a 2-foot-long piece of steel and a 3-foot-long metal mop handle, Ladenheim said. It’s been going on for three years, it was alleged.

The chef was then barred from contact with the outside world and was allegedly was forced to live in Kumar’s home while he worked 12 to 14 hour days, seven days a week. He said he was driven to and from the restaurant by Kumar, who also physically assaulted his victim whenever a mistake was made.

“He was demoralized over quite a lengthy time,” Ladenheim told the L.A. times. “He was extremely terrified.”

The police were tipped off to the scheme when a fellow employee called the chef’s brother in Mumbai and spoke of the abuse the man was enduring Stateside. The brother consequently sent an email to the county sheriff’s department on Tuesday which led to Kumar’s arrest later that same day. The victimized employee was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Authorities disclosed the victim’s was plan was to stay in the U.S. in order to assist and testify in the prosecution of his tormentor, before returning to India. It is currently unknown whether there will be an official follow-up.

However, Kumar, who was held at the Santa Clarita Sheriff Station on $100,000 bail, was released on Thursday as the District Attorney’s office refused to file charges as there was insufficient evidence.

“The case was reviewed for filing consideration but it was declined due to a lack of sufficient evidence,” said Ricardo Santiago, spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office.

“The actual charge evaluation worksheet is not available, yet,” he said.

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