Fort Worth

Southlake couple found guilty of holding young African woman as servant for years

Southlake couple in federal court

Mohamed Toure and Denise Cros-Toure of Southlake appeared in federal court in downtown Fort Worth, charged with one count of alleged forced labor, a federal charge.
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Mohamed Toure and Denise Cros-Toure of Southlake appeared in federal court in downtown Fort Worth, charged with one count of alleged forced labor, a federal charge.

A Southlake couple accused of using a girl as a slave for almost 16 years were found guilty Thursday evening of forced labor.

The federal jury of eight women and four men also found Mohamed Toure and his wife, Denise Cros-Toure, 57, guilty of conspiracy to harbor an alien.

But 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.

A sentencing date for the Toures had not been set. They face a maximum of 20 years in prison on the forced labor charge.

“I’m absolutely devastated,” said attorney Brady T. Wyatt III of Dallas, who represented Mohamed Toure. “A family has been destroyed. The government told a story and we contradicted it.”

One of the Toures’ daughters burst into tears as U.S District Judge Reed O’Connor read the verdicts Thursday evening. Jurors spent more than eight hours deliberating over the verdict.

“I’m very disappointed,” said attorney Scott Palmer of Dallas, who represented Cros-Toure. “Conflicting evidence was presented.”

The defense attorneys said the verdict would be appealed.

The Toures 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.

Agents with the U.S. Marshals took the Toures into custody Thursday evening. They were released shortly after they were arrested in April.

Jurors also decided the Toures’ property would be forfeited because it was used to facilitate the commission of the crime.

The young woman from the West African country of Guinea 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

In January 2000, the couple 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. The girl escaped from the couple’s home in 2016 with the help of several former neighbors, 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.

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