Couple Convicted of Forcing Young, West African Girl to Labor in Their Southlake, Texas, Home for 16 Years
Defendants Mohamed Toure and Denise Cros-Toure, of Southlake, Texas, were convicted late yesterday by a federal jury in Ft. Worth, Texas, of forced labor and other federal felonies for compelling the domestic labor of a young, undocumented West African girl for 16 years. The verdicts were announced by Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox of the Northern District of Texas, and Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey McGallicher of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Houston Field Office.
“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. “I’m especially grateful to the witnesses who helped rescue this woman and brought the defendants’ crimes into the light of day. If we want to wipe out human trafficking, we need the whole community to support the effort and be alert.”
“This verdict sends a strong message: Diplomatic Security is committed to making sure that those who exploit and traffic individuals, especially children, will face consequences for their criminal actions,” said Jeffrey McGallicher, Special Agent in Charge of the DSS Houston Field Office.
Following a four-day trial, the jury convicted the defendants of forced labor, conspiracy to commit alien harboring, and alien harboring. The defendants were acquitted of conspiracy to commit forced labor, and defendant Mohamed Toure was acquitted of making false statements to federal agents.
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 defendants 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 defendants 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 defendants 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 defendants isolated the victim, deprived her of basic opportunities they afforded their children, and rendered her completely dependent on them for everything. While the defendants’ children attended school and some attended college, the defendants 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 defendants physically, emotionally, and verbally punished her. The defendants called the victim a “dog,” “slave,” “worthless” and an “idiot,” and repeatedly hit her.
Defendant 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, defendant Mohamed Toure held the victim down, sitting on her back, while defendant Cros-Toure hit her. As another form of punishment, defendant 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. Defendant Toure also shaved the victim’s head, because defendant Cros-Toure did not like the appearance of her hair. On another occasion, defendant Cros-Toure hosed off the victim outside because she thought the victim smelled. After years of abuse and being forced to work for the defendants, the victim was able to escape in 2016 with the assistance of several neighbors.
Sentencing has not yet been scheduled. The defendants 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.
The U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, Houston Field Office, investigated the case. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Rebekah Bailey and Special Litigation Counsel William Nolan of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section and Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Lewis for the Northern District of Texas.
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