Four from St. Charles County indicted for forced labor and theft

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Four St. Charles County, Missouri, residents have been indicted on charges including forced labor, labor trafficking, and theft of government funds.

Venkatesh Sattaru, 35, of O’Fallon; Nikhil Penmatsa, 27, of Defiance; and Sravan Penumetcha and Nitya Sattaru, both from St. Charles County, were indicted Wednesday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis.

Nitya Sattaru pleaded not guilty on Monday. Venkatesh Sattaru, Penmatsa, and Penumetcha are scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday for their arraignments and detention hearings.

Venkatesh Sattaru, Penmatsa, and Penumetcha each face one count of forced labor. The indictment accuses them of obtaining the labor and services of an Indian national through a combination of force and threats of force. Venkatesh Sattaru was also indicted on one count of labor trafficking.

Venkatesh Sattaru and Nitya Sattaru, who are married, face one count of conspiracy to commit theft of government funds and 47 counts of theft of government funds. The indictment accuses them of defrauding the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, also known as the Caregiver Support Program, which provides financial compensation for providing care to qualified military veterans. The indictment alleges the couple conspired to falsely claim that Venkatesh Sattaru, a U.S. Army veteran, was unable to care for himself and needed help with walking, bathing, using the restroom, and getting dressed. They claimed he was unable to drive, complete housework, cook, shop, or manage his own finances or medication allotment. Their fraud triggered monthly payments ranging from $1,405 to $4,723 from April 2020 to February 2024, totaling $83,776.

Charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, and the St. Charles County Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dianna Edwards is prosecuting the case.

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