A Texas couple was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for holding a young girl from West Africa as a slave for 16 years. (No, this isn’t a Throwback Tuesday article from 1919 — this sh*t happened on Monday.)
According to a press release from federal prosecutors, Mohamed Toure (above, left) and Denise Cros-Toure (above, right) were ordered to pay $288,620.24 in restitution to their victim, who managed to escape from their home in 2016.
The couple were first arrested a year ago on charges of forced labor of a domestic servant. Following a four-day trial in January, a federal jury convicted them of forced labor, conspiracy to commit alien harboring, and alien harboring.
Prosecutors say that the girl was five when the couple, who are citizens of the West African country of Guinea and lawful permanent residents of the United States, allegedly arranged for her to leave her village in Guinea in 2000.
Once in the United States, the press release continued, “the defendants forced the victim to cook, clean, and take care of their biological children, some of whom were close in age to the victim, without pay for the next 16 years.”
During the trial, prosecutors presented overwhelming evidence to support the victim’s claims that the couple had abused her physically, emotionally, and verbally. Investigators say the defendants called the victim a “dog,” “slave,” and “worthless” — and also allegedly hit her on multiple occasions, including with an electrical cord.
Per the statement, the couple would punish the girl by forcing her “to sleep alone in a nearby park,” and also allegedly “abused her by shaving her head and washing her outside with a hose,” making the victim “completely dependent on them for everything.”
Prosecutors claimed that the little girl was denied any education, as the statement noted:
“They isolated her from her family and society and prevented her from receiving any education, while their own children attended school and college.”
The victim allegedly told investigators that part of her earlobe was once torn off when Cros-Toure, who is described by prosecutors as the member of a “wealthy and powerful” Guinean family, grabbed her by the ear. Toure is also said to be well connected in the country, as he is the son of the country’s former president, Ahmed Sekou Toure.
The victim, who has not been identified, reportedly did not speak English when she entered the U.S. and was forced to start performing her chores every day at 7 a.m. She reportedly escaped from the couple’s home in August 2016, with the help of several neighbors.
Now, Toure and Cros-Toure may lose their U.S. immigration status and face deportation after they complete their prison sentences.
In response to the ruling, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said he hopes that the couple’s sentence “brings some measure of justice and healing to the victim, who suffered untold trauma as a result of the defendants’ heinous crimes.” He added in a statement:
“The defendants stole her childhood and her labor for years, enriching themselves while leaving her with pain and an uncertain future. I am very grateful to all who supported, and continue to support, the victim as she attempts to rebuild her life. The Department of Justice will continue to investigate and vigorously prosecute human traffickers and vindicate the rights of their victims.”
U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox also addressed the couple’s sentencing, praising the victim’s courage to shed light on harrowing circumstances where most victims would be afraid to do so. She said in a news release:
“Forced labor trafficking cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute — in part because victims are often afraid to speak out. I want to commend her, as well as the witnesses who helped shine a light on her circumstances.”
If you know a victim of trafficking or think you have information pertaining to human trafficking, feds are asking that you call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
[Image via Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department]