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Mansion owner gets probation, house arrest
ALBANY -- Behind closed doors, but not behind bars. A woman is sentenced Tuesday for keeping an illegal immigrant in her palatial Rexford home. Federal prosecutors claimed the immigrant was being kept against her will.
Annie George was found guilty on the lesser count of the two she faced at trial in March. Prosecutors claimed George forced an Indian immigrant named Valsamma Mathai to work for her and live in a closet. George is now staying put under the sentence of five years probation, and eight months house arrest. It's also a home she may have to ultimately give up.
Asked if the sentence satisfies all parties involved, defense attorney Mark Sacco said, "certainly we're happy she's not incarcerated going to jail but she has proclaimed her innocence."
Who had been a colorful dresser in the courtroom, George walked out wearing black on the day of her sentencing. The defendant said she did not keep Valsamma Mathai against her will, but the jury said keeping her as an illegal alien was enough.
"She didn't bring this woman to her house, she didn't make any arrangements with this woman," Sacco said. "Unfortunately her husband wasn't here to deal with this and the government decided she was the one who had to deal with it."
George's husband died in a plane crash. She testified her financial house fell apart thereafter, while living at seemingly the nicest house around, the Llenroc Mansion. Judge Gary Sharpe ordered that house turned over to the federal government. During sentencing, Sharpe also expressed an aggravation with George's testimony.
"You took that stand, you swore to tell the truth, and you lied through your eye teeth," the judge said.
The comment refers back to a phone call played for the jury where George is heard talking to Mathai's son, saying that she would be in trouble if she told anyone she was working for the George's. Annie George denied that voice was hers. Sacco said, "there was nothing in the trial -- there was no voice analysis, no attempt by the government to match her voice up to it, she was testifying in English and the tape was in a foreign language.
Mathai was granted a special visa to testify in this trial and the government gave her no promise of citizenship because of it.
Assistant US Attorney Rick Bellis told CBS6 simply he believed this was "a just sentence." He made the case that George did nothing to help Mathai gain citizenship while they were living together. She violated the conditions of that visa when the George's took Mathai away. They said it was a coercive process, and their initial tip that she was in Rexford came from a Human Trafficking Hotline.
Because of all that she could have been sent to prison for five years and had to pay $250,000 in fines.