Police: Trio held women captive
3 men charged with human trafficking

LILBURN - A trio of Lilburn men face unusual allegations of human trafficking after police discovered they were holding a harem of foreign women captive in their home, authorities said.

The women were held in a pale-yellow, four-bedroom home on Sunfield Drive - a quiet enclave of older ranches and two-stories near Indian Trail and Burns roads - and forbidden from leaving unless accompanied by their captors, said Lilburn police spokesman Detective Matt Lake.

Each victim was legally in the United States on entertainment visas, he said.

Officials with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement are interviewing the alleged victims, all women in their mid-20s to early 30s, Lake said. Everyone involved is believed to have transplanted to Lilburn from various nations in the Middle East or India, he said.

Lake couldn't publicly divulge the nature of the women's alleged servitude because the case remains under investigation, and more arrests could be pending, he said. None of the women were physically harmed or forced into sexual acts, he said.

"(The men) kept them captive in the house until it was time to go work," Lake said. "There was no sex."

Police have charged three suspects - Shifiqat Muhammad Ali, 35, Vijay Bannerjee, 35, and Govino Vishwa, 41 - each with one count of human trafficking, a felony. They remain at the Gwinnett County Jail without bond.

Lake said a probable cause hearing is scheduled for the suspects at 1:30 p.m. Friday. He wouldn't say how police were initially clued in to the situation.

All three men obliged Lake's request to speak with them at the Lilburn Police Department, unaware they were breaking Georgia law, he said.

"They didn't think they were in the wrong," he said. "They voluntarily came in. They admitted to what happened."

Lake described the area where the women were found as "normal, mostly Hispanic." On Monday afternoon, several people congregated on a porch of the nondescript home, chatting with a woman inside.

A man who identified himself as Sam Khan of Snellville, said he had no knowledge of the arrests. Four or five women live in the home, and the owner was elsewhere Monday, he said.

"I don't know what happened," Khan said. "I'm just visiting my girlfriend."

Lake said the arrests mark the first case of human trafficking handled by Lilburn police.

In 2007, Georgia legislators enacted a new statute called the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act, a measure meant to clamp down on illegal immigration that also created the offense of human trafficking.

The law penalizes those found guilty of human trafficking with a minimum year in prison, or a minimum 10 years if a victim is under age 18.

The case isn't the first of its kind recently in Gwinnett.

Last month, a Norcross man pleaded guilty in an Atlanta federal court to sex trafficking by force and coercion.

Prosecutors say Francisco Cortes-Meza, 25, and several co-defendants brought 10 women from Mexico - including several minors - to the area to serve as prostitutes against their will.