Pound Ridge resident and renowned cookbook author Joseph Yannai was found guilty of sex trafficking in a federal court in Brooklyn Friday and could face life in prison.
Yannai, 67, was found guilty on all counts, including coercion and enticement under the Mann Act, forced labor, attempted force labor, fraud in labor contracting, and unlawful employment of aliens for immoral purposes and inducement of an alien to illegally enter and reside in the United States.
Pound Ridge Police Chief David Ryan said Yannai would advertise for au pairs in Europe and then when they arrived, he would cut off their contact from family and friends and sexually abuse them. The conduct took place over a period of six years.
The trial was held in federal court in Brooklyn because the women entered the country through John F. Kennedy International Airport, making it a federal crime.
Prosecutors said that Yannai lured young women from such countries as Hungary to come to his home to work as a professional assistant. The women, who ranged in ages from 18 to 25, said that he sexually abused them by groping and kissing them and forcing them to watch him bathe. They said he intimidated them into staying by making threats of bodily harm if they refused his demands.
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore said on March 11, 2009, one of the women managed to escape Yannais residence at 309 Salem Road and contacted the Pound Ridge Police Department, which began an investigation.
In all my years on the force, this is the conviction that I am most proud of, Ryan said.
Yannai was not in court when the verdict was rendered as he remained hospitalized after a suicide attempt in which he tried to overdose on valium. It was his second such attempt. Officials say he tried to overdose on tranquilizers when federal investigators came to his home in August 2010 to arrest him.
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