Couple jailed for bringing five-year-old girl to Texas and forcing her to work as unpaid domestic help for 16 years
A west-African girl, who was merely five years old upon her arrival to the US, was abused and neglected for 16 years by a Texas couple who made her care for their children, along with handling the task of cooking, cleaning and mowing the lawn around the house. She was able to get her freedom back once she escaped their clutches with the help of her neighbors, states a criminal complaint against the couple.
According to CNN, the couple has now been sentenced to seven years each in prison and nearly $300,000 in restitution, confirmed by a Monday news release from the Justice Department. 58-year-old Mohamed Toure and his wife Denise Cros-Toure were reportedly convicted in January of forced labor, conspiracy to harbor an alien and alien harboring.
By August 2016, the young woman had collected evidence, including photos, to prove that she had lived in the Toure household for years. She then escaped from the house with a duffel bag and a backpack and was taken to a local YMCA, according to court filings.
The Justice Department further revealed that the duo are citizens of Guinea, the same place from where the young girl had been brought, as well as lawful permanent residents of the US. However, the pair may lose their US immigration status and be deported to Guinea after their sentencing. Toure is the son of the late Guinean president Ahmed Sekou Toure, who helped lead Guinea to independence from French rule in 1958. Sekou was the country’s first president, a role he held until his death in 1984.
"I hope that today's sentence brings some measure of justice and healing to the victim, who suffered untold trauma as a result of the defendants' heinous crimes," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in the press release. "The defendants stole her childhood and her labor for years, enriching themselves while leaving her with pain and an uncertain future."
The Texas residents had faced a maximum sentence of 20 years for forced labor, 10 years for conspiracy to commit alien harboring, and five years for alien harboring. Their attorney said the couple was pleased with the lighter sentence, but maintain that the girl's story was fabricated.
Investigators claim the young girl, who initially lived in Guinea with her parents, was still young when she began working for Cros-Toure's family in the city. In January 2000, the young girl was taken to their house in Southlake, where her first job was to care for the couple's youngest son, who was about two years old at the time.
However, her workload eventually started to increase, and after a point, she was responsible for cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, mowing the lawn and gardening. Moreover, the couple isolated her, forced her to do housework and care for their children with no pay and made sure she was entirely dependent on them, according to the criminal complaint. Evidence at trial further established that the defendants physically, emotionally, and verbally punished the young victim when she disobeyed or otherwise failed to perform the required labor to their satisfaction.
But Cros-Toure's attorney, Scott Palmer, put up a defense saying they didn't pay the girl for her work because she was like family.
"They didn't pay her, but you don't pay family members to clean your own house," he said. "She lived there like anyone else did." He further revealed that the couple wanted to adopt the girl. Toure's attorney, Brady T. Watt III said those stories were fabricated in the girl's attempt to stay in the US. "We know why this came about because this was her route to get a T-Visa," Watt said. "She wasn't a slave. She was charting runs on her Fitbit, doing modeling shoots."