A Nigerian couple based in Arlington, Texas in the United States of America (USA), is now facing the possibility of spending about 55 years in jail if convicted of an alleged slavery against a widow they brought to the US from Nigeria as a nanny.
The couple identified as Emmanuel Nnaji and Ngozi Nnaji is now standing trial before a Texas district court for allegedly holding their nanny, whose name was protected, against her will and without paying her for her services as a domestic staff.
An investigation report signed by Jennifer Baker, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and approved by Charles Bleil, a judge, said the nanny was brought from Nigeria to the US under disguise and was held in servitude without payment for her services as domestic staff.
The indictment report said the couple kept the nanny, who has six children in Nigeria, in the US for nine years without access to her children and family.
Officials believe the Nnajis promised the woman that she would be paid, and there would be support for her children, if she came to work for them as a domestic servant.
Part of the seven-count indictment alleges that the couple used unscrupulous means to get fraudulent immigration documents, confiscated the victim's official documents, secretly kept her in their home and forced her to work long hours with no days off for little or no pay.
Nnaji is also accused of sexually assaulting the victim and threatening the woman if she called police.
Officials claim the couple kept the woman isolated from the outside world and refused her requests to be returned home or be paid for her services.
Along with not paying the victim, the couple also allegedly failed to provide support for the victim's children back in Nigeria. Contact with her Nigerian family was also monitored and she was prevented from attending church regularly, the indictment report said.
Arrested on September 30, they have been charged with conspiracy, forced labor, document servitude, alien harboring and false statements.
Part of the charged read: "Knowingly and willfully combine, confederate, conspire and agree with each other and others known and unknown to the grand jury, to commit offences against the United States in violation of USC 1589, specifically, to provide or obtain the labour or services of a Nigerian female national known as C: (2) by means of a scheme, plan, and pattern intended to cause C to believe that, if she did not perform such labour and services, she would suffer serious harm or restraint and (3) by means of the abuse and threatened abuse of the law and legal processes, in violation of title 18, United states Code, sections 371 and 1589(a)(2) and (3)(2004)(amended by Public law 106-386, effective December 2008, and re-codified as Title 18 United States Code Sections 1589(a)(3) and (4).
"Knowingly and willfully combine, conspire and agree together with others known and unknown to the grand jury, knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact that C, an alien, came to, entered, and remained in the United States in violation of law, to conceal, habour and shield C from detection for the purpose of private financial gain: in violation of Title 8, United States Code, sections 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii), 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I), and 1324(a)(I)(B)(i).
"knowingly conceal, remove, confiscate and posses the purported passport and immigration documents of an individual known as C in the course of a violation of Title 18, US code, section 1589; with the intent to violate Title 18, United states code, Section 1589; and to prevent or restrict or attempt to prevent or restrict, without lawful authority, C's liberty to move or travel, in order to maintain the labour or services of C when C was a victim of a severe form of human trafficking in persons; in violation of Title 18, US Code 1589.
Charge four specifically accused Ngozi Nnaji of lying about their servant's coming to the US.
It reads: "On or about December 4, 2006, the forth Worth division in the northern district of Texas or elsewhere, the defendant, Ngozi Nnaji, knowingly and willfully make false, fictitious and fraudulent statement or representation, when the defendant stated to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents the following: that in May 1999, C (whom the defendant, Ngozi Nnaji, identified by name), surprised Ngozi by showing up at her house; that at no time did C work as an employee for the Nnajis; and that C was not required to do any work around the house, when in fact, as the defendant well knew, C did not surprise Ngozi by showing up at her house but rather, was brought to the United States by the Nnajis in 1997 to perform child care as an employee; and that C was required to work for the Nnajis full time as their domestic servant and employee."
It also accused Nnaji of lying about the widow's remuneration as a domestic employee.
It said about Emmanuel Nnaji: "Knowingly and willfully make a materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation when the defendant stated to FBI agents the following: that C ( whom Emmanuel identified by name) came to stay with the Nnajis about May 1999 for two months at the request of C's relatives; that Emmanuel Nnaji never saw C's passport or personal documents and that C cared for Nnajis' child in exchange for room and board, when in fact, as the defendant well knew, C did not come to stay with the Nnajis about may 1999, for two months at the request of C's relatives but rather Emmanuel Nnaji recruited C through Ngozi's Nigerian relative and C came on or about December 11, 1997; that Emmanuel Nnaji did see C's passport and personal documents when he confiscated and kept them, and that C cared for not just one Nnaji child but three children and C cooked, cleaned and laundered clothes and that C did not agree to work in exchange for only room and board but rather was promised a $100.00 per month salary."