A Nigerian couple based in Houston were arrested on Tuesday after they allegedly forced a 38-year old Nigerian woman to work as a personal slave while subjecting her to bizarre abuses, including making her strain leftover milk from cereal bowls to use in her tea, and, in one instance, beating her because she dressed the couple’s child in the wrong pair of socks.
A report by Houston Press says that Chudy Nsobundu, 56, and his wife Sandra, 50, were apprehended on Tuesday and charged with forced labor, visa fraud, withholding documents and harboring conspiracy after allegedly enslaving the Nigerian woman and forcing her to work as a nanny to the couple’s five adopted children without pay.
In addition to physical and verbal abuse, federal prosecutors allege the woman was denied basic living necessities — like fresh food, fresh water for drinking and bathing, and access to medical treatment — and was allowed to leave the couple’s five-bedroom house at the end of a quiet Katy cul-de-sac only when she was taking the two youngest children out for a walk.
In 2012, Sandra Nsobundu allegedly contacted the victim, who was living in Lagos, Nigeria, at the time, through a mutual friend and asked her if she would come to the United States to care for her adopted children. The Nsobundus have five children, ages 21, 12, nine and two three-year olds (according to public records, the 21-year old is a registered nurse). The victim signed a “contract” to perform the duties, for which she believed she would earn $100 a month, and soon traveled to Texas using fraudulent identification documents allegedly paid for by the Nsobundus.
Once she arrived at the Nsobundus’ home at 6415 Arroyo Hill Court, the couple allegedly threw all of the woman’s clothes in the garbage and told her she was not allowed to have her own possessions, including her passport, which the couple allegedly kept locked in their bedroom. The feds claim she was forced to sleep on the floor in the two youngest kids’ rooms because, as the Nsobundus told her, she was “too smelly” for the bed.
The victim told investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that she worked 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day, and was not allowed to watch TV or even sit down during her workday. She was allegedly not allowed to eat fresh food, only leftovers, and could not even use fresh milk for her tea. Instead, Sandra Nsobundu made her “strain the milk out of the children’s bowls of cereal,” according to the complaint.
The complaint also alleges that Sandra Nsobundu would physically abuse the victim, who had a “deformed” left arm that didn’t heal right after a motorcycle accident in Nigeria, if she did not perform her duties to the Nsobundus’ expectations.
The victim told ICE that in one incident around Easter last year, Sandra Nsobundu “did not like the socks that she had put on” the youngest child, so Nsobundu dragged the woman down by her hair and slapped her in the face with a slipper. Nsobundu then allegedly told the woman that she would “shoot her and kill her” for not taking care of the kids the way she wanted her to.
Throughout her two years enslaved in the Nsobundu household, the couple would often refer to the woman as “the idiot.”
In October 2015, the woman called her bank in Nigeria and found out she had not been paid since she arrived in America, prompting her to seek help escaping from the household.
According to the complaint, in late September 2015 a caller notified the National Human Trafficking Resource Center about the woman’s situation. The next month, the woman fled the Nsobundus’ residence with the assistance of a case manager from the YMCA International Trafficked Persons Assistance Program and was taken to a women’s shelter shortly after.
Court records show Chudy Nsobundu, a registered nurse, was convicted of a misdemeanor theft in Harris County in 1982, and in Fort Bend this January, he was charged with interfering with an emergency call, also a misdemeanor (that case is ongoing). Other than that, the couple’s criminal background is clean in Harris, Fort Bend and Waller counties, as well as at the federal level (except for yesterday’s arrest).
The Nsobundus each face a total of up to 60 years in prison and $1 million in fines.