FORT WORTH (CN) — A Texas couple was indicted Wednesday, federally charged with enslaving a child from Africa for 16 years, denying her pay and education and putting her to forced labor in their home.
Mohamed Toure and Denise Cros-Toure, of Southlake, face four charges, including forced labor, harboring an alien for financial gain and conspiracy. Toure faces a fifth charge of making false statements for telling authorities he attempted to adopt the unidentified child. They face up to 20 years in federal prison.
The child traveled alone on a plane to Texas in 2000 “for the purpose of providing childcare and performing other domestic services for the defendants,” the 13-page indictment states. Prosecutors say she had previously lived in a mud hut in a village in Guinea in West Africa and that her passport indicates she was 5 years old at the time.
She remained at the home until she escaped in 2016 with the help of “several former neighbors,” prosecutors said in April this year. Authorities began investigating the couple after the escape, resulting in their arrest five months ago. They have been under house arrest since.
“The defendants required her to cook, clean, do the laundry, perform yard work, and paint, as well as care for their five children,” prosecutors said in a statement. “Although the victim was close in age to the children, the defendants denied her access to schooling and the other opportunities afforded to their children.”
They denied the child medical care, as well, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
“On different occasions, defendant Denise Cros-Toure ripped out D.D.’s earring, slapped D.D., struck D.D. with a belt, and struck D.D. with an electrical cord,” the indictment states. “On another occasion, defendant Mohamed Toure restrained D.D. while defendant Denise Cros-Toure struck her.”
Prosecutors said the defendants also punished her by threatening “immigration consequences.”
The Toures’ attorney, Scott H. Palmer, disputed reports that the girl was 5 years old when she arrived in the United States, and said witness accounts and photographs will “reveal the truth” that she was not a slave, was not forced to do anything against her will, and was not beaten or threatened.
“We look forward to amassing a mountain of evidence to refute the government’s portrayal of our clients,” he said in a statement. “[We] look forward to revealing the motivation of this woman to lie, betray and attempt to destroy the family that took her in at the request for of her father for a better life in the United States.”