Texas couple jailed for seven years for enslaving Guinean girl for 16 years

Girl was called a ‘dog’ and was forced to sleep on the ground for years

A couple who enslaved a Guinean girl for 16 years at their Dallas-area home, forcing her to cook and clean while calling her a “dog,” were each sentenced Monday to seven years in federal prison, authorities said.

The couple, Mohamed Toure (58) and Denise Cros-Toure (58) of Southlake, Texas, who are citizens of Guinea, may be deported after their prison sentence, prosecutors said. They were also ordered to pay almost $290,000 in restitution. They were found guilty by a federal jury in January of several crimes, including one count each of forced labour.

Toure is the son of Guinea's first president, Ahmed Sékou Touré, who led the West African country for 26 years until his death in 1984. "It took tremendous courage for this young woman to share her story at trial," Erin Nealy Cox, the US attorney for the northern district of Texas, said in a statement on Monday.

“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.”


Slept on the floor

Authorities said that in 2000, Toure and Cros-Toure arranged for the girl, then 5-years-old, to travel alone from West Africa to their Southlake home on a tourist visa. After arriving in Southlake, she would start working by 7am every day, cleaning, making beds, vacuuming, cooking and gardening, among other chores, she told authorities.

They said she was forced to take care of the couple’s children. Authorities said the young woman was physically abused and struck at least once with an electrical cord. She told investigators that she had visited a doctor only once and had slept on a floor for years, upgrading to a twin bed only when one of the couple’s children left for college.

The young woman was isolated from her family and prevented from receiving any education while the couple’s children went to school and college, authorities said.

In August 2016, a former neighbour encouraged the young woman to collect evidence, including photos, to prove that she had lived in the Toure household for years. She then escaped from the house with a duffel bag and a backpack and was taken to a local YMCA, according to court filings.

Family outings

During the trial, the young woman, identified in news reports as Djena Diallo, said she could occasionally walk in and out of the Southlake home, and attend the couple's family outings, The Dallas Morning News reported in January. She said she did not leave for good because she did not know anyone in the area, The News reported.

The couple were indicted in September. In January, they were convicted of conspiracy to commit alien harbouring and alien harbouring, in addition to the forced labour charges, authorities said.

“Our clients are paying a tremendous price for what we believe 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,” said Scott Palmer, a lawyer for Cros-Toure.

Palmer said the Toures planned to appeal the case. – New York Times