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    Wife of St. Charles Kidnapping Ringleader Arrested for Stealing VA Funds

    By Ryan Krull,

    2024-04-15

    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=337jow_0sRm50Vh00

    The three St. Charles County men accused in state court late last year of keeping a 20-year-old Indian man in slave-like conditions at a home in Defiance, Missouri, now face federal charges for those crimes. The wife of the alleged ringleader of the plot has also been indicted along with her husband as part of a scheme to defraud the federal government.

    Nitya Sattaru, who had not previously been charged with a crime, was arrested yesterday by federal authorities.

    Nitya and her husband, Venkatesh Sattaru, are facing 47 counts of theft of government funds.

    For Venkatesh, this comes on top of the slew of state charges he is already facing in St. Charles County Circuit Court.

    Venkatesh – along with Sravan Penumetcha and Nikhil Penmasta – were charged in December with kidnapping, assault and other crimes for allegedly holding a 20-year-old against his will in a Defiance home and forcing him to work essentially as a slave. St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph McCulloch referred to Sattaru as the "main target" of the investigation that led to the charges.

    The 20-year-old came to Missouri in late 2022 under the impression he'd be going to college on a student visa sponsored by Sattaru. However, he soon found himself sleeping on a concrete floor in Sattaru's home for as little as three hours a night, forced into a type of peonage where he worked for his alleged captor's IT business and served at his beck and call. After about a year under those conditions, a neighbor called police asking for a wellness check at the home in Defiance. Authorities found the 20-year-old with bruises and open wounds on much of his body. The initial charges were filed against his alleged captors shortly thereafter.

    The federal charges, filed April 10, appear to mirror those filed in state court, accusing the three men each of one count of forced labor.

    The indictment also includes conspiracy and theft of government funds charges against both Sattaru and his wife, Nitya.

    Federal prosecutors accuse the couple of defrauding the Department of Veterans Affairs by claiming that Sattaru, who served in the military for approximately one year starting in 2013, had significant disabilities, to the extent that he needed assistance to "independently accomplish activities of daily living."

    Based on those allegedly fabricated disabilities, Sattaru enrolled in the VA's Caregiver Support Program, which provides financial support to family members and other caregivers of wounded and disabled veterans.

    Sattaru enrolled in the program in January 2020, claiming he needed assistance with the basics of daily life, including using the bathroom, walking, bathing and dressing himself. Federal prosecutors say for approximately three years, Nitya collected benefits as his caregiver. Sattaru later told the VA that his disability was so great he needed his wife's help to do "small things such as getting up and sitting down."

    The indictment filed against the couple states they received more than $80,000 in ill-gotten assistance, doled out in monthly payments ranging from around $1,400 to $4,700.

    Sattaru, Penumetcha and Penmasta remain in jail on the original charges related to assault, kidnapping and forced labor, among others. They have been denied bond.

    After being taken into custody today, a judge allowed Nitya Sattaru to be released on her own recognizance as her case works its way along with her husband's through federal court.

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    We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at ryan.krull@riverfronttimes.com
    or follow on Twitter at @RyanWKrull .


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