BELLO SENTENCED FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING OF TWO YOUNG WOMEN FROM NIGERIA TO WORK AS HER NANNY AND MAID
October 13, 2011
Bidemi Bello Also Loses Her U.S. Citizenship
ATLANTA, GA - BIDEMI BELLO, 42, formerly of Suwanee, Georgia, was sentenced to federal prison today by United States District Judge William S. Duffey, Jr. on charges of forced labor, trafficking with respect to forced labor, document servitude, harboring for financial gain, and unlawful procurement of naturalization.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said of the case, “This case is nothing short of shocking. Bello enslaved two young women through physical abuse, false promises, and threats of jail made to them and their families. Our office is working aggressively to root out human trafficking and to hold these criminals accountable.”
“Holding other human beings against their will in servitude is a violation of human rights that will not be tolerated in our free society,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We are committed to combating human trafficking in all its forms, vindicating the rights of trafficking victims and bringing human traffickers to justice.”
Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, said, “This defendant lacked any compassion for her victims in that the defendant in this matter, being an immigrant to the U.S. herself, knew that her victims were particularly vulnerable to exploitation. The FBI is proud of the role that it played in bringing this matter to justice and urges anyone with information regarding Human Trafficking activity to contact its nearest FBI Field Office.”
“This sentencing closes the door on a shocking case of modern day slavery,” said Brock Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of ICE-HSI in Atlanta. “Human trafficking deprives victims of their freedom and dignity and it has no place in our world. Cases like this one serve to strengthen our resolve to protect and defend those who may not be able to evade or escape the grip of human trafficking.”
BELLO was sentenced to 11 years 8 months in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $144,200. BELLO was also ordered to be deported from the United States upon completion of her federal sentence. BELLO was convicted of these charges on June 10, 2011, after a trial.
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and the evidence at trial: On two separate occasions, BELLO returned to her home country of Nigeria and recruited two young women to return with her to the United States to work as her nanny and maid. The first victim, identified in court as “Laome,” (not her true name) traveled with defendant BELLO in October 2001 when she was 17 years old, using a fraudulent British passport the defendant had obtained for her. The second victim, identified in court as “Dupe,” (not her true name) traveled with an associate of BELLO's to the United States in November 2004 when she was 20, also using a fraudulent British passport. Each victim testified that she never held her own travel documentation and did not know how the passports had been obtained.
BELLO had promised the young women and their families that she would send them to school in the United States. She also promised to pay a salary to one of the young women in exchange for her services. Those promises were not kept. Instead, BELLO physically and emotionally abused both young women, controlled their access to the outside world, and routinely treated them inhumanely. Testimony at trial from the victims described the degrading treatment they received at the hands of BELLO. If BELLO decided the house was not clean enough, she beat them; if BELLO decided the victims did not respond fast enough to her crying child, she beat them; if BELLO felt that they had been disrespectful, she beat them. BELLO used a large wooden spoon, shoes, electric cords and her hands to inflict this physical abuse. One young woman took pictures of her injuries with a disposable camera and the pictures of her cut and bloodied lip were admitted as evidence during Bello’s trial.
The evidence showed that even though BELLO’s upscale home had multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, BELLO made the young women sleep on the floor or a couch and would not let them use the shower, but instead required that they bathe with water in a bucket. Even though the young women cooked all of BELLO's meals, they were not allowed to eat the food they cooked, as BELLO made them eat cheaper food or, sometimes, food that had spoiled and was moldy. Laome testified that she often threw up from the food BELLO made her eat, and that on at least one occasion, BELLO made her eat that vomit.
The evidence also showed that the victims were sleep deprived, and forced to be on call for BELLO’s child all night. The women were given ceaseless tasks such as mopping the floor with rags, washing a privacy fence in BELLO's backyard, cutting the grass with a tool called a cutlass, described as a long knife blade with a wooden handle, and washing the clothes and linens by hand in a bucket. BELLO would not let the young women use modern appliances such as the washing machine, dishwasher, or the lawn mower.
The victims’ stories were corroborated at trial by two witnesses, one a friend and one a relative of BELLO, who testified about the abuse they observed. One woman described seeing Laome with bruises and swollen eyes from defendant's abuse. Both women counseled BELLO to stop abusing the girls. One of the women testified she told BELLO about a criminal prosecution in Maryland of a couple for “modern day slavery.” BELLO refused to stop her abuse and send the young women home, telling her friend, “I will not live in fear.” BELLO also hid her crime from a Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services investigator who came to her home upon hearing allegations of child abuse. Laome testified that BELLO made her hide under a bed, while BELLO lied and told the investigator that Laome was a relative of hers who had gone back to Nigeria. BELLO presented the DFACS investigator with a letter, purportedly written by Laome’s mother, about what a nice time her daughter had with BELLO. However, at trial, Laome’s mother testified that she never wrote such a letter, and in fact could not speak or write in English.
The evidence showed that BELLO never sent the young women to school as she had promised and never gave them any money for their years of work. BELLO made the young women totally dependent on her for all their basic necessities and would not let them interact with anyone without BELLO being present. Another Nigerian woman who was a U.S. citizen, helped the first victim, Laome, escape from BELLO, by hiding her in the back of her car, covering her with blankets, and driving her away while BELLO attended a party. BELLO then traveled back to Nigeria for the second victim, Dupe. Dupe finally saved up $60, given to her by friends of BELLO, and called a cab. She was assisted by pastors at a church in Marietta after taking the cab to the church.
BIDEMI BELLO became a U.S. citizen while she committed the crime of human trafficking. In addition to today’s prison sentence for engaging in modern day slavery, she has now also lost the privilege of her citizenship, and, after serving her sentence, will be deported back to Nigeria.
Victims of human trafficking are protected by U.S. laws from such abuse, regardless of where they come from or how they come to be in the United States. Upon being identified as victims of human trafficking, both Laome and Dupe were given T-visas provided by the U.S. government and allowed to remain in the United States to assist in the prosecution of BELLO. Anyone who knows of a potential victim of human trafficking should report these offenses to the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 404-679-9000 or at 1-888-373-7888 or to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) at (866)-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423) or online at www.ice.gov.
This case was investigated by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE-HSI), and Special Agents with the U.S. State Department, Diplomatic Security Services.
Assistant United States Attorney Susan Coppedge and Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section Deputy Chief Karima Maloney prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney's Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.