HOUSTON (KTRK) --Clad in an orange jail uniform, Sandra Nsobundu was led into federal court Tuesday morning to face charges that she and her husband Chudy held their nanny in slave-like conditions inside their home. Prosecutors say both are facing charges that could send them to prison for two decades.
"There are basically four charges in this complaint," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Searle. "One of them is forced labor, the second charge is visa fraud. We also have another charge of withholding documents. It's basically documents that belong to a person."
The federal indictment shows the couple allegedly called their nanny and "idiot" and made her work 5:30am to 1am every day, caring for five children. She wasn't allowed a TV, no sitting, no bed, no warm water, no fresh food, and could only use milk from the kids' cereal bowls for her tea.
We tried asking the Nsobundus' adult daughter about these allegations.
"I'm leaving," is all Chinelo Nsobundu would say to us as she walked past several television cameras.
The younger Nsobundu, who followed in her father's footsteps as a nurse, was supportive of her parents in court. During two separate hearings, the couple was ordered to turn in both their United States and Nigerian passports as a condition for getting out on bond. They would also have to continue to work. Chudy Nsobundu says he owns a home health care business, at which his wife also works. The couple's initial attorney ran away from our cameras.
"Oh my goodness, no ma'am," said Joan Nwuli as we approached her outside of the court house. "No Comment."
The judge has ordered the couple to each hire different attorneys, and required both to say away from the victim.
The case has drawn nationwide attention, especially for anti-trafficking advocates. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's special adviser on this issue says human trafficking of forced labor is hard to detect.
"It's actually a very hidden issue," says Minal Patel Davis. "Domestic servitude or forced labor is much harder to detect, typically, and then to have the evidence to prosecute is also very difficult to get."
Prosecutors say they are determined to succeed in this case.
"We think (forced labor trafficking) is out there," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruben Perez. "Our mission is to prove it's out there. And when it comes to our attention, the situation in our community, we're going to take action."