Fort Worth, TX–A Texas couple were convicted by a federal jury in Fort Worth, Texas of forced labor and other federal felonies for compelling the domestic labor of a young, undocumented West African girl for 16 years.
Following a four-day trial, the jury convicted Mohamed Toure and Denise Cros-Toure, of Southlake, Texas, of forced labor, conspiracy to commit alien harboring, and alien harboring. The couple were acquitted of conspiracy to commit forced labor, and Mohamed Toure was acquitted of making false statements to federal agents.
“The defendants preyed on a young and extremely vulnerable girl. Their despicable actions included cruelly abusing her, forcing her to work in their home, hidden in plain sight, for years without pay, and robbing her of her childhood,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “Human trafficking is a disgraceful and unacceptable crime, and this verdict should send the very clear message that the Justice Department will investigate and vigorously prosecute these cases to hold human traffickers accountable and bring justice to their victims.”
“Our district is passionate about combatting forced labor. I’m gratified that we were able to obtain a measure of justice for this young woman, who suffered for years at the hands of this couple – people who assumed they could deprive a little girl of her rightful freedoms with impunity,” said U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox.
According to the evidence presented in court, in January 2000, the defendants arranged for the victim, then a young child, to travel alone from Guinea to Southlake, Texas, to work as their servant. The couple were from powerful, wealthy, and politically connected families in Guinea, while the victim was uneducated, impoverished, and from a small, rural village. When the victim’s mother learned that the couple were bringing the victim to the United States, she unsuccessfully attempted to hide her because she “didn’t want her [daughter] to be someone’s slave.” Despite her mother’s efforts, the couple managed to bring the victim to Texas where they required her 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.
The evidence further showed that the defendants gained the victim’s compliance from an early age and abused her to maintain that compliance. The couple isolated the victim, deprived her of basic opportunities they afforded their children, and rendered her completely dependent on them for everything. While the couple’s children attended school and some attended college, they prevented the victim from doing the same and never enrolled her in school. When the victim disobeyed or otherwise did not perform the required labor to their liking, the couple physically, emotionally, and verbally punished her. They called the victim a “dog,” “slave,” “worthless” and an “idiot,” and repeatedly hit her. Denise Cros-Toure choked the victim on multiple occasions, pulled her hair, and whipped her with an electrical cord after realizing that the belt she had been using was no longer causing sufficient pain. On one occasion, Mohamed Toure held the victim down, sitting on her back, while Cros-Toure hit her. As another form of punishment, Cros-Toure expelled the victim from their house, forcing her to sleep alone in a nearby park, where she kept warm using a public restroom hand dryer. Toure also shaved the victim’s head, because Cros-Toure did not like the appearance of her hair. On another occasion, Cros-Toure hosed off the victim outside because she thought the victim smelled. After years of abuse and being forced to work for the Toures, the victim was able to escape in 2016 with the assistance of several neighbors.
Sentencing has not yet been scheduled. The couple face a maximum sentence of 20 years for forced labor, a maximum sentence of 10 years for conspiracy to commit alien harboring, and a maximum sentence of 5 years for alien harboring. Restitution in this case is mandatory under the law.