Enslavement of Nigerian woman leads to guilty plea from Katy couple

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HOUSTON - A Katy couple has been convicted of crimes stemming from the enslavement of a Nigerian woman from Sept. 29, 2013, through Oct. 10, 2015.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson said Sandra Nsobundu, 49, pleaded guilty to unlawful conduct with respect to documents in furtherance of forced labor, while her husband, Chudy Nsobundu, 57, pleaded guilty to visa fraud.

The woman was rescued Oct. 10, 2015, after more than two years in the U.S. with the Nsobundus. She was rescued thanks to a tip to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

The court said the Nsobundus forced the woman to work for two years without her passport and visa. the Nsobundus also knowingly enforced a scheme to cause the woman to believe that failure to perform the labor services would result in serious harm. They also threatened abuse of law and the legal process.

The woman was not paid and her movement was restricted to the Nsobundus' residence or two short walks a day with the children. The Nsobundus also frequently yelled at, scolded and berated the woman for moving too slowly or failing to care for the children in the manner they wanted. The Nsobundus also threatened to send the woman back to Nigeria if she didn't comply with their labor demands.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is seeking restitution in the amount of $129,108 to the victim, saying that the Nsobundus owe that amount in back wages. The Nsobundus previously agreed to pay the woman 20,000 Nigerian nairas, or $100 a month. The court said the Nsobundus never paid the woman for any of her work in the United States.

Magidson said the Nsobundus falsified the visa application for their nanny when she came to the United States from Nigeria. The Nsobundus lied about her age, her reason for travel and her marital status, among other things. They also hid the fact that she would be working for the family as a housemaid and nanny under conditions not in compliance with U.S. labor laws.

After getting the woman's visa, the Nsobundus paid for the woman to get to the United States from Nigeria. Once here, Sandra Nsobundu took the victim’s passport and copies of her bank statement with the intent to violate the forced labor statute.

Sandra Nsobundu faces a maximum of five years in prison and Chudy Nsobundu faces up to 10 years in prison. Both could also face up to a $250,000 fine. They were allowed to remain free on bond pending sentencing, which is set for Jan. 4.

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