Henri E. Cauvin, Washington Post, October 8, 2008
A Nigerian-born businessman convicted of smuggling a 14-year-old girl into the United States and forcing her to work as an unpaid servant at his home in Germantown was sentenced yesterday to more than eight years in prison.
George Udeozor, who was extradited from Nigeria in February after almost four years as a fugitive, pleaded guilty in July to holding the victim in involuntary servitude. He admitted having sex with the girl, abuse that prosecutors said began when she was 15.
But yesterday, with his family and friends present at U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Udeozor all but accused the victim of lying, even as he admitted mistakes.
The prosecution of the Udeozors renewed attention to the smuggling of girls and women to work as live-in domestic help in the United States, where they are often unpaid or otherwise mistreated. Law enforcement officials estimate that thousands are recruited every year from impoverished countries to do domestic work.
Washington and New York are major centers for the practice, in part because both are home to diplomatic missions, whose officials can bring in domestic servants on special visas, and to large immigrant populations.
The victim was not in court yesterday, but she testified during the 2004 trial of Udeozor’s former wife, Adaobi Stella Udeozor. Then 23, she testified that she looked after six children but was never paid and was not enrolled in school. She said Adaobi Udeozor beat her. Adaobi Udeozor was sentenced to more than seven years in prison.
Federal officials said the case demonstrates that such abuses will be prosecuted aggressively. “Forcing a helpless and innocent girl into a life of servitude while inflicting physical violence is simply intolerable,” James A. Dinkins, special agent in charge of the Baltimore office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement. “ICE is committed to protecting those who cannot protect themselves.”