[Stop-traffic] News/US: Md. couples allegedly held two in servitude

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/US: Md. couples allegedly held two in servitude
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Tue Nov 14 2000 - 10:35:04 EST


Md. couples allegedly held two in servitude
By Phuong Ly Washington
The Washington Post, December 1, 2000

Four Montgomery County residents have been charged with illegally bringing
over two women from Cameroon when they were teenagers and forcing them to
work as domestic servants for several years without pay.

The women, one of whom was 14 when she arrived in the United States in 1996
and the other of whom was 17 when she came in 1995, were promised that they
would be paid for housework and allowed to attend school, but instead were
confined to their employers' homes and threatened into not leaving,
according to affidavits in support of arrests and search warrants filed in
U.S. District Court in Greenbelt by officials of the Immigration and
Naturalization Service and the U.S. Department of State. The documents were
unsealed Wednesday.

Louisa Satia and her husband, Kevin Nanji, of the 4000 block of Post Gate
Terrace in Silver Spring, were charged with illegally harboring Christina
Elangwe, who is now 23. Vivian Satia and her husband, Etiondem Daniel
Achamorfaw, of the unit block of Indian Grass Court in Germantown, were
charged with illegally harboring a woman listed in court documents by the
initials R.O., now 18.

A grand jury is expected to convene this month to decide whether to indict
the defendants. Civil lawsuits against the defendants also were filed this
week.

After a first District Court appearance Wednesday, Louisa Satia was
released on the condition that she is restricted to her home and must wear
an electronic-monitoring device, said Stephen Schenning, a first assistant
U.S. attorney. She also has been charged with arranging fraudulent
marriages for immigration purposes between U.S. citizens and West African
nationals as well as committing passport fraud.

Her sister, Vivian Satia, and Nanji are allowed to travel only within the
Washington region. Achamorfaw, who was arrested yesterday, is restricted to
traveling within the Washington area and, for work purposes, to Atlanta.

All are originally from Cameroon, Schenning said. Nanji is a legal
permanent resident of the United States, and the others are naturalized
U.S. citizens.

Stephen B. Mercer, Achamorfaw's attorney, declined to comment yesterday.
Information on the lawyers for the other defendants was unavailable, and
the defendants themselves could not be reached for comment.

Steven Smitson, an attorney for the two alleged victims, said that although
the women spoke English, they were too intimidated to leave. He said both
were young, had little knowledge about the United States and feared their
families in Cameroon would suffer repercussions.

"After being told the U.S. is a very dangerous place for young women,
there's a reasonable degree of fear," he said. "There's a sense among the
employers that they can get away with it."

The women entered the country by plane, using passports belonging to Louisa
and Vivian Satia's relatives, according to the criminal affidavits.

Neither was sent to school, and instead the two were forced to clean, cook
and care for both couples' children as well as the youngsters of other
family members, according to the affidavits.

Smitson said many neighbors were not suspicious because they assumed the
women were family members.

A neighbor of Achamorfaw and Vivian Satia, who lived in a Germantown
cul-de-sac, said that the family members kept to themselves.

"The only time you ever saw their kids out on the street was when there was
no one else around," she said. "We knew everybody else in the whole court
but them."

Elangwe was not physically abused, her attorney said. R.O. suffered regular
assaults by Louisa Satia, according to the criminal affidavits. The
affidavits also allege that Nanji made unwanted sexual advances.

Satia and Nanji have not been criminally charged with physical or sexual
abuse.

R.O. ran away in November 1999 after Satia assaulted her for talking to
someone at a bus stop, according to the criminal affidavits.

Smitson said R.O. ran out of the apartment without shoes or a coat.

She hung out at a shopping center for several hours before scrounging up
change to call someone she knew, he said. Elangwe ran away in February,
after R.O. contacted her, Smitson said.

Smitson said the women still dream of studying in America, but mainly "they
want to recover the years of their lives lost to them."

INS and State Department authorities had been investigating Louisa Satia
for three years on suspicion of passport and marriage fraud, but did not
know about the two women allegedly being housed illegally until they
escaped, Schenning said.
Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

Please contact me off-list for any questions about Stop-Traffic at
<<morhant@igc.org>>.

Women's Reproductive Health Initiative
Program for Appropriate Technology in Health
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