California Psychiatrist Sharmistha Barai Convicted for Human Trafficking

May 20, 2019

On March 14, 2019, after an 11-day trial, Satish Kartan, 45, and his wife, Sharmistha Barai, 40, were found guilty in federal court of having engaged in human trafficking—specifically, conspiracy to obtain forced labor and two counts of obtaining forced labor—both felonies. In addition, Kartan was found guilty of fraud in foreign labor contracting. 

The press release issued by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California stated that Kartan and Barai hired workers from overseas to perform domestic labor in their home in Stockton, California. In advertisements seeking workers on the internet and India-based newspapers, the couple made false claims regarding the wages and the duties of employment. Then, once the workers arrived at the defendants’ Stockton residence, Kartan and Barai forced them to work 18 hours a day with limited rest and nourishment. Few of them were paid any wage. The pair kept the workers from leaving and induced them to keep working for them by threatening them, by creating an atmosphere of fear, control, and disempowerment, and at times by physically hitting or burning them. When a victim pushed back or said she wanted to leave, it got worse. 

According to evidence presented at trial, the couple struck one worker on multiple occasions. Barai threatened to kill her and throw her bones in the garbage, backhanded her across the face for talking back, and slammed her hands down on a gas stove, causing her to suffer first and second degree burns on her hands from the flames. The couple also threatened several other victims to coerce them to keep working, including by telling the victims they would report them to police or immigration authorities if they tried to leave. Throughout the victims’ time in the defendants’ home, they were deprived of sleep and food. The defendants subjected the victims to verbal abuse and harassment in an effort to intimidate them into continuing to provide labor and services. 

According to the Medical Board of California and other sources, Barai is a psychiatrist who graduated with a medical degree from the University of Delhi’s Lady Hardinge Medical College in 2002 and began her psychiatry residency at University of St. Louis School of Medicine beginning in 2009.  She has held medical licenses in Missouri, North Carolina, and New Mexico and currently has active licenses in California as well as Florida, where she was employed by Orlando Behavioral Healthcare, according to that business’ website. 

On March 15, 2019, a Notification of Court Order was issued by the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, which shows that the Court placed Barai on home incarceration, meaning she must remain at home except in instances of medical need, religious services, and court appearances. Barai is required to wear an electronic monitoring device. 

She and Kartan are scheduled to be sentenced June 6th. They each face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Source: “Former Stockton Couple Convicted of Human Trafficking Charges Related to Forced Labor of Foreign Nationals,” press release of U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, March 18, 2019, URL:


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