WASHINGTON - Evelyn and Joseph Djoumessi, both Cameroonian nationals, were sentenced late last night by a judge in Detroit, Mich., to 218 months and 60 months, respectively, for conspiracy related to their holding a young girl from Cameroon in involuntary servitude. Judge Arthur Tarnow also ordered the defendants to pay $100,000 in restitution to the victim.
In March 2006, a jury convicted defendant Evelyn Djoumessi and a judge convicted defendant Joseph Djoumessi after the government presented evidence that between October 1996 and February 2000, the defendants forced the Cameroonian girl, whom they had brought to the United States illegally, to work against her will as a domestic servant in the Djoumessi home. The jury found that Evelyn Djoumessi forced the girl to take care of the defendant’s children and perform household chores without pay, and beat her with a belt, a spoon, and a shoe in order to force her to comply with these demands. The judge found that in addition to forcing her to work as a domestic servant, Joseph Djoumessi sexually abused the victim.
“The promise of freedom has brought millions of people to these shores,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Djoumessi’s had no right to deprive their victim of that freedom. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute and bring to justice those who victimize some of society’s most vulnerable members.”
“Today’s sentence gives fair warning to all human traffickers and any others who would ever seek to force an innocent teenager to become the equivalent of a personal slave: you will pay a steep price for your crime,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy for the Eastern District of Michigan. “This Office will continue to pursue and aggressively prosecute such heinous offenses.”
“It is a basic and fundamental human right to be free, and no child should ever be forced to live in a world of fear and involuntary servitude,” said Special Agent in Charge Brian Moskowitz, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Investigations. “Today’s sentences are a testament to our solemn commitment to protect those who cannot protect themselves. While we cannot restore someone’s childhood, we can bring their abusers to justice.”
Human trafficking prosecutions are a top priority of the President and the Department of Justice. In the last six fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, has increased by 600 percent the number of human trafficking cases filed in court. In fiscal year 2006, the Department obtained a record high number of defendants charged and defendants convicted in human trafficking prosecutions.
The case was investigated by agents of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and was prosecuted by attorneys from the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.