Source: Department of Justice, April 22, 2019
U.S. District Court Judge Reid O’Connor sentenced defendants Mohamed Toure, 58, and Denise Cros-Toure, 58, of Southlake, Texas, to seven years in prison each and ordered them to pay $288,620.24 in restitution. A federal jury convicted the defendants of forced labor, conspiracy to commit alien harboring, and alien harboring on Jan. 11 following a four-day trial. As a consequence of their convictions, the defendants, who are citizens of Guinea and lawful permanent residents of the United States, may lose their U.S. immigration status and be removed to Guinea pursuant to law. Today’s sentences were announced by Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Department of Justice’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.
“I hope that today’s sentence brings some measure of justice and healing to the victim, who suffered untold trauma as a result of the defendants’ heinous crimes. The defendants stole her childhood and her labor for years, enriching themselves while leaving her with pain and an uncertain future,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “I am very grateful to all who supported, and continue to support, the victim as she attempts to rebuild her life. The Department of Justice will continue to investigate and vigorously prosecute human traffickers and vindicate the rights of their victims.”
“Forced labor trafficking cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute – in part because victims are often afraid to speak out,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “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. I want to commend her, as well as the witnesses who helped shine a light on her circumstances. If we want to wipe out human trafficking, we need to remind witnesses to speak up, and ask the community to remain alert.”
“Today’s sentence sends a strong message to those abusing and exploiting individuals: you will be held responsible for your vicious acts,” said Jeffrey McGallicher, Special Agent in Charge of the DSS Houston Field Office. “The Diplomatic Security Service wields a global law enforcement reach, is committed to investigating these crimes wherever they occur, and remains dedicated to its partnerships in pursuing justice for the victims of human trafficking.”
According to the evidence at trial, the defendants, members of wealthy and powerful Guinean families, arranged for the victim, then a young child from a rural Guinean community, to travel alone from her home in West Africa to the defendants’ home in Southlake, Texas, in early 2000. Once in the United States, the defendants forced the victim 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.
Evidence at trial further established that the defendants physically, emotionally, and verbally punished the young victim when she disobeyed or otherwise failed to perform the required labor to their satisfaction. For example, the defendants called the victim a “dog,” “slave,” and “worthless.” They repeatedly hit her on multiple occasions, including with an electrical cord. They forced her to sleep alone in a nearby park as punishment, abused her by shaving her head and washing her outside with a hose, and rendered her completely dependent on them for everything. They isolated her from her family and society and prevented her from receiving any education, while their own children attended school and college.
The U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, Houston Field Office, investigated the case. It was 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 of the Northern District of Texas.
If you know someone who may be a victim of trafficking or otherwise believe you have information pertaining to human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.