Federal authorities charged a North Texas couple with the forced labor of a West African girl, alleging they enslaved her in their home for more than 16 years.
The accused, Mohamed Toure, 57, and wife Denise Cros-Toure, 57, appeared in federal court Thursday. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) alleged in a complaint that Toures and others arranged for the victim, who did not speak English, to travel alone from her village in the West African Republic of Guinea to the Torres’ home Southlake, Texas, in January 2000, to work for the defendants in their home. The court documents indicated the victim’s Guinean passport showed she was five-years-old at the time. The defendants purportedly forced the victim to toil in their home for long hours without pay.
For the next 16 years, the defendants required the girl to “cook, clean, do the laundry, perform yard work, and paint, as well as care for their five children,” according to the affidavit, which also asserted that, even though the victim was close in age to the some of the Toure children, the girl was “denied her access to schooling and the other opportunities afforded to their children.”
The DOJ accused the defendants of taking away the victim’s documents, causing her to remain unlawfully in the U.S. after her visa expired. They said the Toures isolated the girl from her family and others, and abused her emotionally and physically. The affidavit portrayed the abuse as “slapping led to the use of a belt, which then led to the use of an electrical cord to strike her,” according to KDFW.
The victim apparently escaped in August 2016 with the help of several former neighbors, according to the DOJ.
The couple’s attorney, Scott Palmer, disputed the charges, denying any wrongdoing in a statement released to KDFW. “There’s a lot more to this story than meets the eye,” said Palmer. “The young lady was brought over to the U.S. at the request of her father, who is related to Mr. Toure, because he wanted a better life for his daughter. She was not the family’s slave and we will prove that.”
Palmer also confirmed to WFAA that Mohamed Toure is the son of Ahmed Sekou Toure, the first president of the Republic of Guinea. The elder Toure ruled over one of the world’s poorest nations for more than 25 years until his death in 1984. The New York Times described the former president as “a towering charismatic and radical figure” who led his country to independence from France in 1958. The Times noted that, later his reign, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations called Toure’s rule “highly oppressive.” In 2016, Al Jazeera estimated as many as 50,000 people had been killed or disappeared by the time of Toure’s death, and up to two million fled the country.
According to WFAA, the complaint stated the younger Toure and his wife, who immigrated to the U.S. years ago, collect roughly $200,000 annually from “…overseas deposits.”
For now, the Toures remain behind bars. The U.S. government has 30 days to present this matter to a grand jury for indictment. If convicted, the maximum sentence for forced labor is 20 years in federal prison. They have a court hearing scheduled for Monday.
Palmer said he will hold a news conference sometime on Friday to discuss this case.