A Southlake, Texas couple accused of enslaving a Guinean woman for 16 years has been indicted on federal charges that include forced labor.
A grand jury on Wednesday indicted Mohamed Toure and Denise Cros-Toure, who are the son and daughter-in-law of a former president of the West African country of Guinea.
Toure and Cros-Toure, both Guinean natives, were granted asylum in the United States in 2000, court documents indicate.
Toure is the son of former Guinean President Ahmed Sekou Toure, and Cros-Toure’s father was the nation’s secretary of state. Ahmed died in 1984, A devout Muslim from the Mandinka ethnic group, Sékou Touré was the great grandson of the powerful Muslim cleric Samori Toure who established an independent Islamic rule in part of West Africa. Touré died of an apparent heart attack on 26 March 1984 while undergoing cardiac treatment at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio for emergency heart surgery; he had been rushed to the United States after being stricken in Saudi Arabia the previous day. Touré’s tomb is at the Camayanne Mausoleum, situated within the gardens of the Conakry Grand Mosque.
Investigators did not find much work history for the couple, who appeared to receive income from “significant” overseas deposits, according to the complaint. Their home, on a leafy street in well-to-do Southlake, was appraised by Tarrant County at nearly $600,000 this year.
In the mid-1990s, the couple sometimes appeared in print and photographs in The Dallas Morning News’ philanthropy coverage for their support of causes that included Fair Park’s African American Museum.
An affidavit says they brought the victim, then aged at least 5 years but perhaps as old as 13, from her rural Guinean village in 2000. They forced her to work without pay in their home for years. Authorities began investigating after the victim fled the couple’s home in 2016.
Toure faces an additional charge of making false statements to federal agents by saying that he attempted to adopt the girl, according to the indictment.
Defense attorney Scott Palmer has said the criminal complaint against his clients is “riddled with salacious allegations, fabrications and lies.”
Authorities began investigating in 2016 after the victim fled the couple’s home on Briarridge Drive with two bags of her belongings.
According to the criminal complaint, the girl had been living in a mud hut in a village in Guinea when she went to work for Cros-Toure’s parents in a city. In January 2000, someone took her to an airport and she was placed on a flight — alone — to the United States.
The girl’s passport and visa said she was 5 years old (though other documents indicate she could have been as old as 13), and she did not speak English. Her most vivid memory of the journey was “a kind flight attendant who gave her cookies and a toy,” according to court documents.
She told authorities that she was soon put to work. After the five Toure children went to school she began “cleaning, making the beds, vacuuming, cooking and gardening,” and kept working until the children were in bed, according to the complaint.
Neighbors occasionally saw her walking the children to school, as well as painting the home and mowing the lawn, and thought the couple had a nanny, the complaint says. She didn’t play with other children, neighbors said.
There was no record of the girl attending school in Carroll ISD, which includes the couple’s home. She told investigators she wasn’t allowed to take part in the same activities as the Toure children — learning to ride a bike, use a computer, swim, drive — or even care for her hair.
For years, the girl said, she slept on the floor in one of the children’s bedrooms and had only hand-me-downs to wear. A Southlake police officer who came across her in a park in 2002 wrote in a report that her appearance was unkempt.
The family never celebrated her birthday, she said, and she didn’t know how old she was.
The victim also reported that Toure and Cros-Toure abused her physically and emotionally.
She was slapped, hit with a belt and lashed with an electrical cord, and Cros-Toure once yanked an earring from her left ear, the complaint says. An investigator noted scars on the girl’s arms and ear.
The girl said the couple yelled at her often, calling her “a little nothing,” a slave and — in a recorded conversation — a whore. As punishment, Cros-Toure occasionally kicked her out of the home and she spent the night in nearby Bicentennial Park, she said.
In August 2016, a few former neighbors helped the victim leave the home with some of her belongings, her long-expired travel documents and some photographs. She went to a YMCA, where employees contacted authorities.
Police said the couple didn’t report her missing.
Palmer, the couple’s lawyer, said the victim had been treated like a family member, which included having chores and other responsibilities. They gave her clothes, food, a bed, spending money and Christmas gifts, he said, and she had social media accounts and was in contact with her relatives in Guinea.
Palmer disputed that the girl was 5 when she came to the U.S., and he said witness accounts and photographs would “reveal the truth that she was never enslaved, forced to do anything against her will, never beaten, never threatened.” He offered as evidence pictures from an Instagram account purported to be hers.
“We look forward to amassing a mountain of evidence to refute the Government’s portrayal of our clients,” Palmer said in a prepared statement, “and look forward to revealing the motivation of this woman to lie, betray, and attempt to destroy the family that took her in at the request of her father for a better life in the United States.”