A Southlake couple accused of forcing a West African girl to work in slave-like conditions in their home for more than 16 years has been indicted on charges of forced labor, alien harboring for financial gain, and conspiracies to commit forced labor and alien harboring, federal officials announced Wednesday.
Mohamed Toure and Denise Cros-Toure, both 57, were arrested on April 26, after being charged by criminal complaint. Toure was also charged with making false statements to federal agents.
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The Toures arranged for the girl, then a minor child, to travel alone from her village in Guinea, West Africa, to Southlake to work for them in their home, according to a news release from the U.S Department of Justice.
For more than 16 years, the Toures allegedly forced the girl to work long hours — demanding she handle childcare, cook, clean, and perform yard work, the release said.
Scott Palmer, Denise Cros-Toure’s attorney, has called the government’s case “weak” and suggested that the girl, referred to as Jane Doe, manipulated events to stay in this country while the Toures were planning to send her back to her small village in Guinea.
The government has been presented with pictures and video of the girl, who is now in her late 20s or early 30s, out on public outings and on vacation with the family, Palmer said. The Toures’ children dispute the picture that the government is presenting, Palmer said.
“The family was taking active steps to send her back to Guinea,” Palmer said. “A visa was obtained through a consulate in New York and she was headed back to Africa. She was living a normal life in Southlake that most people would be happy to live.”
Palmer said the girl’s parents had been interviewed by officials with the U.S. State Department and the reality was not what is being portrayed by the government.
“I think the parents are awaiting a big payday,” Palmer said. “I think they believe that this will all end up bringing them a bunch of money.”
According to the indictment, although the girl was close in age to their five biological children, the couple denied her access to schooling, medical care, and other opportunities they afforded their own children.
On several occasions Denise Cros-Toure slapped or hit the child as punishment, the release said. Until neighbors helped the girl escape in August 2016, the Toures allegedly denied her any pay, isolated her from her family, and threatened serious harm if she refused to work, the release stated.
As part of their scheme to compel the girl’s labor, the defendants confiscated her official documents and caused her to remain unlawfully in the United States after her tourist visa expired in March 2000 and threatened to send her back to Guinea if her work was unsatisfactory, according to the release.
Tarrant County authorities have dealt with the girl, who is believed to be about five years older than she thinks she is, and the family since at least April 2002, when Southlake police found her in a city park “wearing dirty unkempt clothing” and “very visibly scared and nervous,” a police report said.
This story includes information from Star-Telegram archives