News and Press Releases

Couple forced Moroccan niece to work long hours for no pay

December 20, 2006

ABDENASSER ENNASSIME, a/k/a “SAMMY,” 47, and TONYA ENNASSIME, 41, of Lakewood, Pierce County, Washington were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for federal charges connected to their mistreatment of their niece, a juvenile. ABDENASSER ENNASSIME was sentenced to six months of electronic home detention, 240 hours of community service and three years of probation. TONYA ENNASSIME was sentenced to 90 days of electronic home detention, 60 hours of community service and three years of probation. The couple was also ordered to pay their niece $65,226.65 in back wages. ABDENASSER ENNASSIME pleaded guilty September 7, 2006 to Forced Labor, and his wife, TONYA ENNASSIME pleaded guilty that same day to Concealing and Harboring an Alien.

According to the plea agreements, the girl was 12-years-old when she came to the United States from Morocco in September 2001. She attended school for only a short time. 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. ABDENASSER ENNASSIME 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. According to the plea agreement the family took a month-long trip to Morocco and left the young girl to run the latte stand fourteen hours a day, seven days a week.

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.

With the assistance of friends and an immigrant rights group, the girl was able to escape on July 9, 2005.

Under the sentencing guidelines, ABDENASSER ENNASSIME would be looking at three to four years in prison. However, the government agreed to ask for home detention at the request of the victim in the case. In their sentencing memo prosecutors wrote to the court that “Despite her trauma, (the victim) requested the government to recommend a sentence of probation for her uncle, Mr. Ennassime, as (she) does not wish to have Mr. Ennassime face prison time. Absent the compassion of (the victim), Mr. Ennassime would be subject to a significant sentence of imprisonment.”

During that probation the couple will be closely monitored by the U.S. Probation Office particularly with respect to their employment of domestic workers.

The case was investigated by the FBI. Assistant United States Attorneys Jill Otake and
Ye-Ting Woo prosecuted 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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