A Southlake couple who forced a young African woman to work for them for years were sentenced on Monday to seven years in federal prison plus three years of supervised release.
They must also pay their former servant more than $288,000 in restitution, and they will be deported to Guinea after their release from prison.
In addition, their Southlake home was seized.
Mohamed Toure and his wife, Denise Cros-Toure, both 58, had faced a maximum of 20 years each on the forced labor charge.
“This is one of the hardest things we’ve been through,” Denise Cros-Toure told U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor before she was sentenced. “We opened our home to everyone, and our hearts.”
During the two-hour hearing Monday afternoon, attorneys noted that Denise Cros-Toure was rushed to a hospital in March because of a heart problem.
Her husband said he loved the young African woman like a daughter.
“We believed the truth would come out,” Mohamed Toure said before he was sentenced late Monday afternoon.
The Toures entered the federal courtroom in shackles on their feet and arms, dressed in khaki pants and shirts.
Toure and Cros-Toure are 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 courtroom was filled with supporters of the Southlake family and their children.
At one point, Denise Cros-Toure blew kisses to her family and friends in the courtroom.
Attorneys noted to the judge the volumes of letters in support of the Toures that had been turned over to him.
Neighbor after neighbor along with the children of the Toures described in testimony Monday afternoon what a loving and generous family the Toures had been through the years.
“This is not the family I know,” said Mohamed Billity of Dallas, a friend of the family, who spoke to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after sentencing.
Before sentencing, attorneys for the Toures had argued that this was a family with no criminal history who included the young African woman in almost every family outing.
Scott Palmer of Dallas, Denise Cros-Tourne’s attorney, along with Mohamed Toure’s attorney, Brady T. Watt III of Dallas, have emphasized over and over again that 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.
But in January, a federal jury of eight women and four men found the couple guilty of conspiracy to harbor an alien. The couple did not take the witness stand, but the young woman did testify before the jury.
Jurors found the couple not guilty on two other charges related to the case. Mohamed Toure also was found not guilty of making a false statement to government officials.
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 Southlake couple were arrested in April 2018, but released a few weeks later.
The Toures were taken back into custody in January after jurors found them guilty.