The wealthy son and daughter-in-law of a notorious African leader have been indicted on federal charges of enslaving a girl from their home country and forcing her to work as a domestic servant for 16 years.
Mohamed Toure and Denise Florence Cros-Toure, both 57, were indicted Wednesday by a federal Grand Jury in Fort Worth, Texas and charged with forced labor, harboring an alien and two counts of conspiracy, according to a news release by the Department of Justice.
Mohamed Toure is also charged with making false statements to federal agents, for allegedly saying he attempted to adopt the girl, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The couple were first arrested on April 26, and held in jail until they were placed on house arrest, according to the Associated Press.
Mohamed Toure is the son of the late Ahmed Sekou, a union activist who successfully agitated in his native Guinea for freedom from French colonial rule, the Associated Press reports. Sekou was elected president in Guinea’s first free election in 1958, before going on to rule as a brutal dictator until his death in 1984.
Mohamed Toure and his wife Denise Florence Cros-Toure were granted asylum in the U.S. in 2000, according to the Dallas Morning News. The couple settled in Fort Worth area, and bought a $600,000 home in a well-to-do neighborhood. The couple’s wealth is derived from “significant” offshore accounts.
In the mid-1990s, the couple was noted in news reports for supporting philanthropic causes, including Fair Park's African American Museum, the Dallas Morning News reports. But according to the indictment against them announced Wednesday, they were not so generous to the girl they allegedly enslaved.
The girl had been living in a mud hut in a village in Guinea before she began working for Cros-Toure’s parents in a city. Then, in 2000, someone put her on a flight alone to the United States. She didn’t speak English and her travel documents said she was 5, according to Wednesday’s news release.
She landed in Texas, and began working for the Toures in their home.
“The defendants required her to cook, clean, do the laundry, perform yard work, and paint, as well as care for their five children. 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,” Wednesday’s news release says.
They also “emotionally and physically abused her,” according to police.
The abuse allegedly included slapping and beatings with a belt and electrical cord, the Dallas Morning News reports. One time, Cros-Toure allegedly pulled an earring out from one of the girl’s ears. They also called her “a little nothing,” a slave and whore, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Former neighbors helped the victim escape in August 2016, police say.
She went to a YMCA, where employees contacted authorities, triggering an investigation that led to Wednesday’s indictment. Police said the couple didn't report her missing.
An attorney for Cros-Toure, Scott Palmer, denid the couple enslaved the girl. Palmer said she was a distant relative sent as a child by her father from Guinea to be raised in the United States with the couple’s children.
“She had chores, but all the children had chores. She loved gardening. She wasn’t considered a housekeeper,” Palmer told the Associated Press.
While Palmer confirmed prosecutors' allegation that the woman wasn’t allowed to go to school, he explained that was because she overstayed her visa and the family feared officials would deport her.
“She was provided food, clothing, a bed, spending money, a house to live in. Our clients purchased Christmas gifts for her,” Palmer said.
The couple faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
[Photo: Denise Florence Cros-Toure (l) and Mohamed Toure (r), Tarrant County Sheriff’s Dept.]
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