ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – Three men arrested in a St. Charles County trafficking case, all accused of beating a victim and forcing him into labor for several months, have pleaded not guilty to criminal charges.
Venkatesh R. Sattaru, Sravanvarma Penumetcha, and Nikhil V. Penmatsa all pleaded not guilty to felony charges on Friday. Their cases include abuse through forced labor, trafficking, kidnapping and armed criminal action, among other offenses.
Authorities arrested Sattaru, Penumetcha, and Penmatsa after helping a victim who the three allegedly trapped for several months. Police say the victim is a 20-year-old Indian national who came to the United States on a student visa with intentions to attend college at Missouri S&T.
Court documents state the victim is a cousin of Sattaru and a brother-in-law of one of the other suspects.
Authorities learned of the trafficking allegations during a wellness check Wednesday in Defiance, Missouri. Investigators say the victim came out the front door pleading for help and had suffered multiple scars and bruises. Sattaru, Penumetcha, and Penmatsa were arrested moments later.
The three suspects reportedly forced the victim to engage in multiple hours of unpaid work and complete various chores. The victim completed work for one of the suspect’s IT companies. Investigators say, on several occasions, the suspects beat the victim when tasks were not completed to their standards.
St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Joe McCulloch described the allegations as “absolutely inhumane and unconscionable.” Incidents were linked to homes in Defiance, Dardenne Prairie, and O’Fallon. The victim reportedly suffered several broken bones from the beatings.
Sattaru, Penumetcha, and Penmatsa are all jailed in St. Charles County without bond and have their next court hearing scheduled for Dec. 7, per Missouri court records.