FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — U.S. authorities have arrested the son of a former president of the West African country of Guinea and his wife for allegedly enslaving a countrywoman in their Texas home.
Mohamed and Denise Cros-Toure were being held in a federal detention facility Friday pending a probable cause hearing Monday in Fort Worth on a forced labor charge.
Toure’s attorney, Brady Wyatt, told The Associated Press that his client is the son of late Guinean President Ahmed Sekou Toure, who helped lead Guinea to independence from French rule in 1958. Sekou Toure was the country’s first president, a role he held until his death in 1984.
According to an arrest affidavit, the defendants arranged for the victim to travel from her rural Guinean village to Texas in 2000, and for 16 years, forced her to work in their home without pay. She was forced to cook, clean, do the laundry, perform yard work and care for their children, the affidavit said, adding her actual age was unclear because the Toures had seized her documents to prevent her from leaving.
Cros-Toure’s attorney Scott Palmer denied the allegations and told AP that the woman, whose name has not been released, was a distant relative sent by her father from Guinea as a child to be raised alongside the couple’s three children.
“She had chores, but all the children had chores. She loved gardening. She wasn’t considered a housekeeper,” Palmer said.
Prosecutors also said the woman was not allowed to attend school. Palmer confirmed this, but said it was because she had overstayed her visa, and the family feared that she would be deported.
“She was provided food, clothing, a bed, spending money, a house to live in. Our clients purchased Christmas gifts for her,” Palmer said, adding that the Toures hadn’t seen the woman since she left their Southlake home in 2016, seeking help from other relatives in Houston.
The maximum penalty for a forced-labor conviction is 20 years in a U.S. prison.