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Lawsuit Says About 200 Workers At New Jersey Hindu Temple Were Forced Into Manual Labor For Just Over $1 An Hour

ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- About 200 workers at a large Hindu temple in central New Jersey say they were forced into manual labor.

A new lawsuit says the workers made little more than $1 an hour.

FBI agents raided the sprawling site of a Hindu temple Tuesday morning in Robbinsville, just east of Trenton.

The federal raid comes as a lawsuit claims workers were lured there from India and forced to work long hours on construction projects for just $1.20 an hour.

"I represent low-wage workers all the time and this case is still quite shocking to me," said Patricia Kakalec, a Brooklyn-based attorney for the workers.

Her lawsuit accuses the leaders of the Hindu organization known as BAPS of human trafficking and wage law violations.

The men lived in a guarded compound on the property, and the lawsuit alleges they were told they could not leave.

"They were told that if they left, they would sort of be on, they could be subject to being picked up by the police. There were guards. There were more than 50 cameras throughout the premises," Kakalec told CBS2's Nick Caloway.

In a statement, BAPS leadership said they were made aware of the accusations Tuesday morning and are "taking them very seriously and are thoroughly reviewing the issues raised."

The workers were allowed into the country on a religious visa, and sources with the temple said the workers were there to volunteer, not to make money.

That claim is disputed by attorneys for the workers.

"They took the job to earn a salary, to support their family," Kakalec said.

Security kept CBS2's cameras far away just hours after the FBI raided the property.

People at a neighboring Sikh church were alarmed by the accusations happening right next door.

"Of course it is wrong," said Sikander Ranu, with the Central Jersey Sikh Association.

Attorneys for the workers say this could be the largest forced labor case in this country in decades.

The lawsuit seeks unpaid wages and an unspecified amount of money in damages.

CBS2's Nick Caloway contributed to this report.

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