In a major expose, a Chicago-based couple of Indian descent have been accused of running a high-end racket that was luring female actors from Tollywood and advertising them for sex work at events across the United States.
The case came to light after federal charges in the form of a 42-page criminal complaint filed in a US District Court in Chicago were unsealed.
The chief accused was identified as 34-year-old Kishan Modugumudi alias Raju alias Sreeraj Chonnupatti. The Chicago Tribune claimed that he was an Indian businessman who also co-produced films in Tollywood. Kishan and his wife Chandra were arrested in April by federal agencies and have not been able to procure bail.
The complaint was accessed by Chicago Tribune, and allegedly involved female Tollywood actors visiting the country on temporary visas.
The alleged racket was exposed when a small-time actor was brought to America on the pretext of taking part in a show. She has been referred to as the main victim in the case. The investigators arrested the couple after the victim wrote to them asking them not to harm her.
The charges reveal that at least 4 actors were forced to stay in dingy apartments, waiting for their next 'date', with 'clients' being charged up to $3000 for these sexual encounters.
Their main 'customers' would be found at Indian conferences and cultural events across the US.
The women were reportedly promised better job offers.
The investigators also said that Kishan's wife, 31-year-old Chandra, allegedly kept detailed ledgers of the sexual acts performed by each actor along with details on how much money exchanged hands.
Federal agents also reportedly found more than 70 condoms divided up into “multiple Ziplock bags” when they raided the couple's residence.
Since the couple have been in custody since April, their two children have been shifted to the custody of child welfare officials in Virginia.
This also comes months after Sri Reddy, a television anchor-turned-actress, had created a sensation by resorting to strip protest against casting couch, a euphemism for sexual harassment, in Tollywood in front of the office of Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce in Hyderabad on April 7.
The Movie Artists' Association (MAA) responded with a ban on the actor but later withdrew it after the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sent notices to the Telangana government and the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry over her allegations of sexual exploitation.
The commission took suo moto cognizance of media reports about the allegations raised by Sri Reddy and a lack of grievance redressal mechanism for women in the film industry.
Following this, the Telangana government decided to form a special cell to look into complaints of sexual exploitation.
After a meeting with representatives of Tollywood, Minister for Cinematography T. Srinivas Yadav announced that the special cell will be created in the Film Development Corporation.