A Texas couple forced a young West African girl to work as a domestic slave in their home for more than 16 years without pay, federal prosecutors said.
Mohamed Toure and his wife, Denise Cros-Toure, both 57, appeared in federal court in Fort Worth on Thursday on charges of forced labor after arranging for the girl — who didn’t speak English — to travel alone from her village in the Republic of Guinea to Southlake in January 2000, according to the Department of Justice.
The couple then forced the girl — whose passport indicated she was just 5 years old at the time — to work as the family’s domestic slave, compelling her to cook, clean, do laundry and yard work, as well as paint and take care of their five children. And although the girl was nearly the same age as other children in the home, the Toures denied her an education and other opportunities given to their own offspring, federal prosecutors allege.
The couple also allegedly took the girl’s travel documents, keeping her in the United States unlawfully after her visa expired, according to an affidavit. The Toures are accused of emotionally and physically abusing the girl until she managed to escape the home in August 2016 with the help of several former neighbors.
Scott Palmer, an attorney for the Toures, has denied the allegations, telling the Washington Post that the girl was included in all family functions and had been treated like their own flesh and blood.
“The complaint is riddled with salacious allegations, fabrications and lies,” Palmer wrote the newspaper in an email. “We look forward to amazing a mountain of evidence to refute the government’s portrayal of our clients and look forward to revealing the motivation of this woman to life, betray and attempt to destroy the family that took her in at the request of her father for a better life in the United States.”
Toure is the son of Guinea’s first president, Ahmed Sekou Toure, who was elected in 1958 and held that office until his death in 1984. Toure and his wife, according to a 13-page complaint filed in the Northern District of Texas, have relied on “significant overseas deposits” since arriving in the United States.
Palmer, meanwhile, said it’s unclear why the girl wasn’t enrolled in school during her time living with the Toures.
“I believe it was an issue complicated by not having a birth certificate or legal guardianship or adoption papers,” he said.
The couple, if convicted of forced labor, faces up to 20 years in prison.