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US couple found guilty of enslaving girl from Guinea for 16 years

  • Published at 09:29 pm January 12th, 2019
View of a dirt road in Penitas, Texas, US, January 10, 2019 Reuters

Witnesses confirmed seeing the girl performing household chores at various times from 2000 to 2016

A couple from Texas, USA, has been found guilty of enslaving a girl from Guinea for 16 years at their home in a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb, where she was forced to cook, clean, and care for their children, investigators said.

A federal jury on Thursday found the couple, Mohamed Toure and Denise Cros-Toure of Southlake, guilty as charged. Federal authorities had accused the couple,  of forcing the girl to work for them and their five children from when she was 6 until she was 22, reports the New York Times.

Toure is the son of Guinea’s first president, Ahmed Sékou Touré, who led the country for 26 years until his death in 1984.

After a four-day trial and a day of deliberations, the jury found the couple guilty on several counts, including the forced labour charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set.

“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,” Erin Nealy Cox, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said in a statement.

According to the New York Times, lawyers for Toure and Cros-Toure dismissed the government’s claims, arguing that the couple had tried to help the girl.

“They were trying not to send her back to Guinea and keep her here in America so she would have a better life,” Brady T Wyatt III, who represented Mr Toure, said in an interview.

According to the April filing, the young woman, who is now 24, told the investigator that she had grown up in a mud hut in a village in Guinea. When she was young, her father, a farmer, took her to the home of Cros-Toure’s parents, where she cared for Cros-Toure’s sister for one to two years.

When the girl was 5, she was brought to the United States on a tourist visa and was almost immediately put to work, according to the filing. She spoke no English at the time.

She would start working at 6:30am or 7am every day, cleaning, making beds, vacuuming, cooking and gardening, among other chores, and would continue until the Toure children went to bed, she told the authorities. Several unidentified witnesses confirmed seeing her perform such chores at various times between 2000 to 2016, reports the New York Times.

According to the April filing, Cros-Toure would physically abuse the girl, who had scars consistent with the stories she told of being whipped with an electrical cord and having an earring ripped from her ear. The girl also said she had visited a doctor only once and had slept on a floor for years, upgrading to a twin bed only when one of the children left for college.

That August, the young woman reached out to a former neighbour. The two met at a Starbucks where the young woman explained that the situation at home had worsened. The neighbour encouraged her to collect evidence, including photos, to prove that she had lived in the Toure household for years.

With the help of several others, the young woman soon escaped from the house with only a duffel bag and a backpack and was taken to a local YMCA, according to the filing.

The authorities said in the filing that there were no state records of Mr Toure working. 

Records showed that Cros-Toure worked for Delta Air Lines from 2005 to 2006 and as a substitute teacher, beginning in 2016. The couple relied on “significant overseas deposits” as their primary source of income and collected about $200,000 per year from 2010 to 2016.