Content warning: sex trafficking
Lakireddy Bali Reddy, former Berkeley landlord and convicted sex trafficker, died of natural causes Nov. 8 at the age of 84.
Reddy was first arrested in 2000, when it was discovered that he had sexually abused nearly 25 workers whom he had trafficked from India to the United States, according to a San Francisco Public Press article. Reddy served eight years at a federal prison in Lompoc, after which he was released and registered as a sex offender in California.
“In addition to subjecting the trafficked girls to what federal prosecutors called ‘sexual servitude,’ Lakireddy allegedly forced many of them to work in his downtown Berkeley Indian restaurant, and do cleaning and maintenance work on his rental properties,” the article reads.
Owner of Raj Properties, a real estate management company in the Bay Area, Reddy earned nearly $1 million per month from more than 1,000 rental properties, the article notes.
According to a previous Daily Cal article, an employee of Raj Properties had filed a lawsuit against the company due to allegations of sexual harassment.
Reddy’s criminal activity was first exposed when Chanti Pratipatti, a 17-year-old girl he had trafficked, died from carbon monoxide poisoning while living on one of his properties, according to a Berkeleyside article.
Anirvan Chatterjee, a coordinator for Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, or ASATA, added that when student journalists from Berkeley High School began investigating her death, they found evidence that would later be used to uncover Reddy’s sex trafficking scandal.
ASATA, which was formed in January 2000 in response to the trafficking case, is a volunteer group that aims to defend the South Asian community against oppressive forces, Chatterjee said. Members of ASATA had noticed that media outlets were characterizing Reddy’s case as one of sexual abuse.
ASATA focused on reframing the narrative in a way that would help the public understand how factors including the caste system, transnational labor and gender enabled Reddy to engage in trafficking for so long, according to Chatterjee.
Chatterjee noted the divided response of the organization to Reddy’s death.
“We condemn and continue to condemn Lakireddy Bali Reddy and his family and the terrible exploitation that they were involved in at the time,” Chatterjee said. “(But), it is not about uniquely demonizing Lakireddy Bali Reddy as the only trafficker targeting folks in our communities right now.”