Southlake couple in federal court
A Southlake couple who were found guilty in January of forcing a young girl from Guinea to work for them for years are scheduled to be sentenced Monday afternoon in a federal courtroom.
Mohamed Toure, 58, and his wife, Denise Cros-Toure, 57, face a maximum of 20 years each on the forced labor charge.
The couple’s trial gained national attention in 2018. A federal jury of eight women and four men found the Southlake couple guilty of using the girl as a slave for almost 16 years.
The girl who is now a young woman, identified in a federal complaint as female victim 1 or “FV-1” and later in the trial as Jenna, was born in the West African country of Guinea and lived with her family in a one-room mud hut with a thatched roof and no electricity. Her father was a farmer and her mother sold produce to support the family.
On occasion, the girl attended school and learned Malinke, a Guinean dialect, and some French. She did not know English, according to the federal complaint.
Toure and Cros-Toure are also from Guinea but have been permanent U.S. residents since 2005. Mohamed Toure is the son of Guinea’s first president, Ahmed Sekou Toure, according to the complaint.
In January 2000, the Toures and other people had arranged for the then-5-year-old girl, who did not speak English, to travel alone from her village in Guinea to Southlake, according to federal court documents.
For the next 16 years, the couple required the girl to cook, clean, do yard work, paint, do the laundry and take care of the Toures’ five children without paying her, court documents say.
The girl escaped from the couple’s home in 2016 with the help of several former neighbors, according to federal court documents.
The young woman told the jury she was beaten with a belt or an electrical cord when she didn’t complete chores at times or burned food. She also said the couple called her a “dog,” “slave,” “worthless” and an “idiot.”
Through the trial, defense attorneys argued the girl went on domestic vacations with the Toure family, left the home on her own, engaged in social media and even jogged in the neighborhood.
Jurors found the couple not guilty on two other charges related to the case. Mohamed Toure was found not guilty of making a false statement to government officials.
“I’m absolutely devastated,” attorney Brady T. Wyatt III of Dallas, who represented Mohamed Toure, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram just minutes after the guilty verdict. “A family has been destroyed. The government told a story and we contradicted it.”
One of the couple’s daughters burst into tears as U.S District Judge Reed O’Connor read the verdicts. Jurors spent more than eight hours deliberating.
“I’m very disappointed,” said attorney Scott Palmer of Dallas, who represented Cros-Toure, after the verdict in January. “Conflicting evidence was presented.”
The defense attorneys have said the verdict would be appealed.
The couple did not take the witness stand in the trial.
Just minutes before the verdict was read, Toure smiled at family members and friends as he entered the courtroom with his attorneys. His wife sat at a separate table with her attorneys.
The young woman who prosecutors say was the domestic servant of the Toures sat in a back row of the courtroom surrounded by federal officials. She was whisked away after the verdict was read.
The Toures are educated and had significant assets in the United States, but a federal investigation indicated they do not have jobs. They bought their Southlake home in 1991 for $370,000 and it’s now valued at $590,000, records show.
According to Texas Workforce Commission records, Toure has never worked in this country but has worked for a government party in Guinea. The records show his wife worked for Delta Air Lines from July 2005 to June 2006 and as a substitute teacher in the Carroll school district starting in 2016.
Agents with the U.S. Marshals took the couple into custody in January after the verdict. They had been released shortly after they were arrested in April 2018.
Jurors also decided the couple’s property would be forfeited because it was used to facilitate the commission of the crime.