Egyptian Couple Indicted for Forced Labor
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Egyptian citizens Mervat Mohamed Fawzy Saleh Tolan, 52, and Nabil Abdel Khalek Talaat, 55, formerly of Vienna, Va., were indicted by a federal grand jury today of forcing two Indonesian women to work long hours at well-below minimum wage as domestic servants in the defendants’ residence.
Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Scott Bultrowicz, Director of the Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Department of State, made the announcement.
“Forced labor is a modern form of indentured servitude,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “This couple is accused of turning their home into a prison for their hired help, forcing them to engage in both hard labor and sexual conduct. We’re grateful to our partners at the Diplomatic Security Service and the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force for their dedication to pursuing human traffickers and rescuing their victims.”
Tolan and Talaat were charged in a 17-count indictment that includes conspiracy to commit forced labor, forced labor, visa fraud, unlawful conduct with respect to documents, conspiracy to harbor and conceal an alien, alien harboring, and false statements. If convicted, they each face a maximum term of five in prison for each conspiracy to commit forced labor, unlawful conduct, and false statement count; 10 years in prison for each visa fraud, conspiracy to harbor and conceal an alien, and alien harboring count; and 20 years in prison for each forced labor count.
According to the indictment, Tolan and Talaat are a married couple from Egypt with ties to Middle Eastern embassies, which enabled them to obtain special visas for women from Indonesia to work in their residence as domestic servants. The defendants allegedly isolated two Indonesian women and paid them less than promised in their contracts – at times less than $400 per month, despite requiring long hours of work. Tolan and Talaat allegedly imposed a number of rules on the women, such as prohibiting them from conversing in any language other than Arabic, prohibiting the women from speaking to the neighbors, and not permitting them from leaving the property unless accompanied by a member of the defendants’ family. At least one of the women was threatened with arrest and imprisonment if she left the house, and both women were forced to engage in sexual conduct with Talaat. In addition, the defendants confiscated the workers’ passports and required them to work long hours with no days off.
This case was investigated by the Diplomatic Security Service of the U.S. Department of State’s newly formed Human Trafficking Unit, with assistance from the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force and the Diplomatic Security Service’s Victims’ Resource Advocacy Program.
Founded in 2004, the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force is a collaboration of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies – along with nongovernmental organizations – dedicated to combating human trafficking and related crimes.
Special Assistant United States Attorney Michael J. Frank and Assistant United States Attorney Zachary Terwilliger are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.