HOUSTON – Federal prosecutors have charged a husband and wife from the Katy area with holding a nanny against her will for years, abusing her and not paying her to work.
Special agents with the Homeland Security Investigations Houston Human Trafficking Group have been interviewing the couple, family members, and the victim.
Chudy and Sandra Nsobundu were arrested Monday morning. They live in the 6400 block of Arroyo Hill Court.
Both of them appeared in federal court Tuesday. The judge released both on bond.
The allegations in a court filing obtained by KPRC 2 said the nanny claims she was forced to work "every day from 5:30 a.m. until 1 a.m.," cleaning the house, cooking and taking care of several children.
Court documents reveal that the 37-year-old woman “arrived to the United States from Lagos, Nigeria in September of 2013 was from Lagos, Nigeria and was granted a visa for two years.”
The couple promised to deposit $100 a month into her Nigerian bank account for the care of their children, and after five years they would pay for her to return to Nigeria. Prosecutors noted that recently the woman realized the couple never deposited any funds into her account. Chudy Nsobundu told a judge in court Tuesday afternoon that he and his wife make a combined $12,000 a month.
Federal prosecutor, Julie Searle, said, "Our office takes each and every one of these charges very seriously. "
Prosecutors also said the nanny wasn't allowed to eat fresh food. She was "only permitted to eat the leftovers from previous prepared meals."
In order to have milk for her tea, she was forced to "strain the milk out of the children's bowls of cereal."
Prosecutors also said the nanny was repeatedly hit, dragged down the hallway by her hair and threatened with death.
Federal prosecutor, Ruben Perez said, "Clearly we think it's out there. Our mission obviously is to prove that that happened. And when it comes to our attention in situations in our community, we're going to take action. And that's what we did in this case."
Sandra Nsobundu was released on bond Tuesday, but she had to surrender her U.S. and Nigerian passports. Her attorney would not comment after court Tuesday.
Chudy Nsobundu is scheduled to be released on $5,000 bond, but a judge set many conditions of his release. The judge said he must not intimidate witnesses, cannot change addresses, must surrender his passports, must stay in the Houston area, can't get any travel documents and may not discuss the case with his wife.
He must tell a judge on Friday if he has hired an attorney.
After the woman escaped, the couple reportedly filed a missing persons report on her, which brought police to their front door.
Neighbors said they were surprised about the allegations.
"I don't know how people can treat other people like that. I'm compassionate and I don't know if I could treat anybody like that," neighbor Paula Meche said.
She said the family's children played with other children but the parents often kept to themselves.
Chudy Nsobundu, 56, and Sandra Nsobundu, 50, are charged with forced labor, withholding documents, conspiracy to harbor an illegal alien and visa fraud. Court documents reveal both husband and wife were naturalized United States citizens originally from Nigeria.
The woman escaped and called the National Human Trafficking Hotline for help. After dialing 1-888-373-7888 she was in contact with a local charity and officers.
The YMCA was instrumental in getting her out of that house.
"The hotline does a very great job in contacting law enforcement, but also contacting the YMCA to begin services," YMCA Program Coordinator Rachel Alvarez said.
Houston has been deemed a prime location for human trafficking because of the city’s location and international diverse population.