Arlington, Texas, Couple Sentenced for Enslaving Nigerian Woman for More Than Eight Years

An Arlington, Texas, couple was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge John H. McBryde for forcing a Nigerian widow to perform domestic labor for them for more than eight years. Emmanuel Nnaji, 50, a naturalized citizen of the United States was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Ngozi Ihechere Nnaji, 40, a citizen of Nigeria, was sentenced to nine years in prison. The defendants were also ordered to pay $305,957.60 in restitution.

On Feb. 2, 2010, both defendants were convicted by a Ft. Worth, Texas, jury on all charges, including conspiracy to commit forced labor, forced labor, conspiracy to harbor an alien for financial gain, harboring an alien for financial gain, document servitude and false statements to an FBI agent.

According to evidence presented at trial, the victim, a widowed and mother of six children, including a chronically ill child, was recruited in Nigeria with promises that her children would be cared for in exchange for her work in the United States.

Upon arrival in the United States, the defendants confiscated the victim’s passport and never returned it. For more than eight years, the victim cared for the defendants’ children day and night, cooked and cleaned with no days off. The defendants did not allow the victim out unsupervised; prohibited her from speaking with her children on the phone unsupervised; and forbid her to make friends or converse with the defendants’ friends. According to evidence at trial, the victim also testified that Emmanuel Nnaji also sexually assaulted her. Although the victim was promised that her family would be cared for, her family received a total of about $300 over the eight years. When the victim asked to return to Nigeria, the defendants refused. The victim was ultimately rescued with the assistance of a Catholic priest.

"The involuntary servitude and mistreatment that this victim endured is intolerable in a nation founded on freedom and individual rights," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. "The prosecution of this case demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to punishing those who prey upon vulnerable victims and exploit them in modern day slavery."

"The FBI is committed to aggressively pursuing and brining to justice the human traffickers who prey upon others who are only seeking to better their lives," said Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Casey Jr., FBI Dallas. "The sentencing in this case sends a strong message to those who are engaged in this heinous form of modern day slavery that this practice will not be tolerated in our community."

The case was investigated by the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Susan L. French and Michael J. Frank of the Civil Rights Division and its Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, with assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Worley of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Texas. Refugee Services of Texas provided assistance to the victim following her rescue.