Arlington couple charged with enslaving woman for 9 years

An Arlington couple have been indicted on charges that they held a Nigerian woman as their slave for nine years, forcing her to work seven days a week and submit to sex with the husband.

Prosecutors say that Emmanuel and Ngozi Nnaji, both from Nigeria, enticed the widowed mother of six to come to the U.S. in 1997 to cook, clean and care for their three children by falsely telling her they were sending her salary, $100 a month, to her children.

According to a seven-count federal indictment, handed down Thursday, the victim was forced to work seven days a week, 16 hours a day.

She escaped the couple’s house in the 1500 block of Greenhill Drive in 2006 and went to the FBI. A Nigerian Catholic priest, who learned about the woman’s plight from talking to her family in Nigeria, helped her leave the house, authorities say.

She is not identified because The Dallas Morning News does not name rape victims.

The Nnajis’ attorneys could not be reached Friday. The couple remained free on bail.

If convicted, each faces 55 years in prison. Ngozi Nnaji faces deportation if he is convicted of any of the charged felonies. Her husband’s citizenship status is unclear.

The case is being prosecuted in Washington, D.C., by the Justice Department’s human trafficking unit, which is part of the civil rights division.

According to court documents, the Nnajis encountered the woman, who cannot read or write, in 1996 through an in-law in Nigeria, who had used her as a baby sitter. The next year, prosecutors say, they got her to agree to come work for them because she was not earning enough to support her children, one of whom is ill.

Prosecutors say that the in-law got the woman a fake passport and that the Nnajis confiscated it.

They kept her from having friends, told her not to talk to anyone who came to the house and wouldn’t let her go to church, the indictment states. They told her that her salary was going to her children in Nigeria, but they sent only a few hundred dollars over nearly a decade, prosecutors say.

The couple and woman also lived in Irving at one point.

Agents talked to the Nnajis in 2006 and 2007, but they denied holding the woman against her will. The wife told FBI agents that “they were shocked [the woman] left without saying anything and saw no signs that [she] was upset or unhappy,” according to a criminal complaint.



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