A Texas couple who held a young girl from West Africa as a slave for 16 years were each sentenced Monday to seven years in federal prison, PEOPLE confirms.
A press release from federal prosecutors states Toure and Cros-Toure must pay $288,620.24 in restitution to their victim, who managed to escape in 2016.
A federal jury convicted the defendants of forced labor, conspiracy to commit alien harboring, and alien harboring on January 11 following a four-day trial.
Now, as a consequence of their convictions, both defendants, who are citizens of Guinea and lawful permanent residents of the United States, may lose their U.S. immigration status and be deported after they complete their sentences.
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband.
“The defendants stole her childhood and her labor for years, enriching themselves while leaving her with pain and an uncertain future,” Dreiband continued. “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.”
The couple was first arrested a year ago on charges of forced labor of a domestic servant.
The girl, according to prosecutors, was five when the couple allegedly arranged for her to leave her village in the West African country of Guinea in 2000.
The couple has close ties to the government of Guinea, as Toure is the son of the country’s former president, Ahmed Sekou Toure. The statement also described Cros-Toure as the member of a “wealthy and powerful” Guinean family.
“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,” the statement says.
Prosecutors presented further evidence at trial to support the victim’s claims the defendants were physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive.
According to investigators, the defendants called the victim a “dog,” “slave,” and “worthless.”
She was also hit on multiple occasions, including with an electrical cord.
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“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,” reads the statement.
“They isolated her from her family and society and prevented her from receiving any education, while their own children attended school and college.”
Prosecutors said at trial that the victim, who has not been identified, did not speak English when she entered the U.S. and was forced to start performing her chores every day at 7 a.m.
The little girl was denied any education.
The victim told police part of earlobe was once torn off when Cros-Toure grabbed her by the ear.
The girl escaped from the couple’s home with the help of several neighbors in August 2016.
“Forced labor trafficking cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute — in part because victims are often afraid to speak out,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox said in the news release. “I want to commend her, as well as the witnesses who helped shine a light on her circumstances.”
Federal authorities ask that people to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 if they know a victim of trafficking or think you have information pertaining to human trafficking.