Unprecedented Check Presented to Labor Trafficking Victim
HOUSTON – The victim in what has become known as the Katy Nanny case has been presented with a check for the full amount of restitution owed to her, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
“This woman now has a better chance at a fresh start,” said Patrick. “We cannot undo the mental and physical harm she has experienced as a result of what her tormenters did to her. However, what we can do is give her what she is owed and the ability to regain some financial stability.”
Sandra and Chudy Nsobundu brought the Nigerian woman here to serve as their nanny for their five children under the guise of a better life. However, during her more than two years with the couple, the victim was forced to work practically 24 hours a day, seven days a week and was subjected to verbal and physical abuse. She could not eat with the family and was forced to sleep on the floor between the beds of two minor children.
Sandra Nsobundu, 50, pleaded guilty to unlawful conduct with respect to documents in furtherance of forced labor, while her husband - Chudy Nsobundu, 58, pleaded to visa fraud. As part of their pleas, they had previously agreed to pay restitution to the victim but argued that amount should not exceed $30,000 for the entire time the woman worked for them. However, an expert with the Department of Labor – Wage and Hour Division compiled an extensive report detailing the amount of wages due to the victim. Ultimately, at a hearing that concluded Jan. 5, 2018, U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas ordered the couple to pay $121,035.04 in restitution to the victim. They were also ordered to serve sentences of 14 months – seven in prison and another seven on home confinement. In addition to the restitution, Sandra Nsobundu was further ordered to pay an additional $5,000 fine per the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. Both will also be required to serve a term of three years of supervised release following completion of the prison term.
In typical restitution matters, defendants are ordered to pay a set amount monthly, which is usually not set to begin until the complete the service of their sentences. In this case, the Nsobundus payments were set at a total of $500 per month. At that rate, it would have taken more than 20 years for the victim to receive full compensation. However, the FLU at the U.S. Attorney’s Office uncovered the Nsobunsu’s significant financial means and immediately worked to obtained their banking information and secure the full restitution payment with interest totaling $121,046.91.
The woman had begun working for the couple from on or about Sept. 29, 2013, through Oct. 10, 2015.
After obtaining the woman’s visa, the Nsobundus paid to transport the victim from Nigeria to the U.S. Once here, Sandra Nsobundu took the victim’s passport and copies of her bank statement. The defendants then concealed, removed and possessed the woman’s passport and visa with the intent to violate the forced labor statute. As part of their pleas, they admitted they intended to prevent and restrict, without lawful authority, the victim’s liberty and ability to move and travel in order to maintain her labor and services.
The couple knowingly unlawfully obtained the labor and services of this woman from on or about Sept. 29, 2013, to Oct. 10, 2015. Throughout the period she worked for defendants, the victim was not permitted to have her passport or visa. The Nsobundus knowingly enacted a scheme intended to cause the woman to believe that failure to perform the labor and services would result in serious harm to her. They also threatened abuse of law and the legal process. The scheme included not paying the victim and restricting her movement to the defendants’ residence or two short walks per day around the block with the children. They also frequently yelled at, scolded and berated the victim for moving too slowly or failing to care for the children in the manner they wanted. In addition, the Nsobundus threatened to send the woman back to Nigeria if she did not comply with their labor demands.
The Nsobundus had previously agreed to pay the victim 20,000 Nigerian nairas-$100 U.S. per month. The Nsobundus never paid the victim for any of her work here in the United States.
The victim was rescued Oct. 10, 2015, after more than two years with Nsobundus in the U.S. following a tip to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
“Labor trafficking often hides in plain sight,” said Patrick. “Suburban neighbors saw something was out of place and listened to their instincts when stories did not add up. They brought this case to light. We need the public’s help to notify law enforcement. If you see something, say something. A simple phone call ended this victim’s bondage.”
The Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) conducted the investigation. HTRA law enforcement includes members of the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Houston Police Department, sheriff’s offices in Harris and Montgomery counties, Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission, Texas Attorney General’s Office, Department of State-Diplomatic Security Service, Department of Labor, IRS and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Established in 2004, the United States Attorney’s office in Houston formed the HTRA to combine resources with federal, state and local enforcement agencies and prosecutors, as well as non-governmental service organizations to target human traffickers while providing necessary services to those that the traffickers victimized. Since its inception, HTRA has been recognized as a national model in identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking and prosecuting those engaged in trafficking offenses. In 2016, the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance received $1.5 million in federal funds from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office for Victims of Crime through the Enhanced Collaborative Model Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force Program, which provides funding to investigate and prosecute cases of human trafficking and provide services to victims.
Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Julie N. Searle and former AUSA Ruben R. Perez prosecuted the case. AUSA Martha Minnis and legal assistants Christina Hill, Kimmie Logan and Corey Richardson were responsible for the recovery of the restitution.