News and Press Releases

Couple allegedly forced Moroccan niece to work long hours for no pay

December 16, 2005

ABDENASSER ENNASSIME, a/k/a "SAMMY," 47, and TONYA ENNASSIME, 41, of Lakewood, Pierce County, Washington were indicted yesterday on charges stemming from their mistreatment of their niece, a juvenile. ABDENASSER ENNASSIME is charged with Forced Labor, which carries a maximum penalty of twenty years imprisonment. He and his wife, TONYA ENNASSIME are also charged with Concealing and Harboring an Alien. The maximum penalty for this offense is ten years imprisonment. The couple were arrested today and will have their first appearance in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Kelley Arnold in Tacoma, Washington.

According to a search warrant affidavit filed in the case, the girl was 12-years-old when she came to the United States from Morocco in September, 2001. She thought she would live with her uncle and aunt, ABDENASSER ENNASSIME and TONYA ENNASSIME, help care for their young son, and attend school. Instead, the ENNASSIMEs required her to perform a rigorous daily schedule of housework and childcare, while also working at the ENNASSIME's coffee shop, "Lake City Perk." Seven months into her 7th grade year at Mann Middle School, the ENNASSIMEs withdrew the girl from school and forced her to work at the coffee shop twelve to fourteen hours a day. ABDENASSER ENNASSIME failed to pay any wages to the girl for her work in the home or at the coffee shop, and even confiscated the girl's share of the tips. ABDENASSER ENNASSIME even assaulted the girl on several occasions.

The girl had entered the United States on a visitor's visa in September, 2001, which expired six months later. The ENNASSIMEs neglected to seek an extension of the visa yet continued to require the girl to live with them in their home at 6905 Hillgrove Lane Southwest in Lakewood, Washington. ABDENASSER ENNASSIME used the expired visa as a threat against the girl, frequently reminding her that she was illegally in the country, and threatened that if she did not work harder and longer, he would call the authorities and have her deported. Employees at Lake City Perk later reported to federal agents that ABDENASSER ENNASSIME, known to them as SAMMY, was also verbally abusive to the girl.

With the assistance of friends and an immigrant rights group, the girl was able to escape on July 9, 2005. She remains in the United States temporarily, and is now living in an undisclosed location.

In 2000, Congress enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) which further criminalized conduct involving involuntary servitude and forced labor by use or threatened use of physical force or legal coercion. "The crime of forced labor specifically provides the United States Attorney with the tool to prosecute individuals who place their victims in a form of modern-day slavery," said John McKay, United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington. "We will seek indictments against those who use language or cultural barriers to isolate these victims from seeking help, and then use physical force or threats to humiliate and coerce the victims to serve them."

An indictment contains allegations that have not been proven at trial beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case was investigated by the FBI. Assistant United States Attorneys Jill Otake and Ye-Ting Woo are prosecuting the case. For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney's Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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