A Texas couple has been sentenced to seven years in prison after they were found guilty of keeping a young Guinean woman as a slave for 16 years from the time she was a child.
According to court documents, Mohamed Toure and Denise Cros-Toure, both 58, forced the girl to take care of their home every day for the entire day, and would beat her if she didn't complete it to their liking.
The couple, who are both originally from Guinea and are lawful permanent residents of the US, grew up well-off and with servants in their homes. Toure's father was the first president of Guinea.
The victim grew up in a rural village in Guinea. When she was about 5, the couple flew her to their home in Southlake, Texas.
She was put to work in their home, where every day — starting by 7 a.m. and until late at night — she would cook, clean, and care for their children. She was not paid.
When the housework wasn't done to the couple's liking, they physically abused her. In at least one case, they beat her with an electrical cord, and once tore her earlobe by ripping out her earring.
She was verbally berated as well, being called a "slave," "whore," "dog," and "worthless." They would also threaten to send the girl — who was undocumented, spoke little English, and had no money or resources — back to Guinea.
For years, the girl would sleep on the floor of one of the children's rooms, and was not permitted to eat meals with the family. She was not sent to school, and was rarely given medical care.
She was scarcely allowed to leave the house except for occasional grocery store trips or walking the kids to school, and as punishment, was once forced to sleep alone in the park. The abuse and isolation caused her to contemplate suicide.
After 16 years, the victim, who is now in her early twenties, escaped with the help of a few people in the community who were familiar with what was being done.
Toure and Cros-Toure were convicted in January of forced labor, conspiracy to harbor an alien, and alien harboring.
On Monday, they were sentenced to seven years in prison each. They were also ordered to pay $288,620.24 in restitution.
The couple may be deported back to Guinea as a result of their sentencing.
Scott Palmer, a lawyer for Cros-Toure, told BuzzFeed News they plan to appeal the conviction. He accused the victim of lying in her testimony in order to get a visa to stay in the US.
"The Toures are paying a tremendous price for what is a wildly exaggerated story by a woman desperate to remain in this country and to find a path to citizenship, rather than return to Guinea," Palmer said.
In a Department of Justice press release, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said the couple "stole [the girl's] childhood and her labor for years, enriching themselves while leaving her with pain and an uncertain future."
US Attorney Erin Nealy Cox commended the victim for her bravery in speaking out, and the witnesses who came forward for helping end a human trafficking case.
“Forced labor trafficking cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute – in part because victims are often afraid to speak out,” Cox said. “It took tremendous courage for this young woman to share her story at trial. She was brought to this country at a young age, pressured to stay quiet, and forced to work for this family without pay for 16 years."