Nigerian Couple Convicted of Forced Labour and Exploitation in the US

By Joke Kujenya

FOLLOWING A federal trial in Camden, New Jersey, Isiaka and Bolaji Bolarinwa, a Nigerian couple residing in Burlington country, have been found guilty of coercing individuals into forced labour and related crimes. The verdict carries a potential sentence of 20 years in prison.

The couple are aged 67 and 50 respectively.

Evidence presented during the two-week trial, including testimony from the victims, revealed a disturbing pattern of exploitation.

Between December 2015 and October 2016, Bolaji, a nurse, and Isiaka, a doctor, originally from Nigeria but residing in New Jersey as American citizens, recruited the two individuals to the US, promising them benefits but subjecting them to domestic labour and childcare against their will.

The couple employed coercive tactics to compel two individuals to engage in domestic labour and providing childcare services to their children.  

The victims endured physical harm, threats, isolation, constant surveillance and psychological abuse. The defendants knowingly took advantage of the victims’ vulnerable immigration status to exploit them for personal gains by making both victims to be working unlawfully in their home.

The jury found them guilty on two counts of forced labour, one count of sheltering a stranger for financial gain, and two counts of domestic servitude.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division remarked: “The defendants deceitfully lured the victims to the United States with promises of benefits, but then betrayed them. Human trafficking is a heinous crime, and this verdict should send the very clear message that the Justice Department will investigate and vigorously prosecute these cases to hold human traffickers accountable and bring justice to their victims.”

U.S. Attorney Phillip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey added: “Forced labour and human trafficking are abhorrent crimes that have no place in our society.”

Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy of the FBI Newark Field Office emphasized the suffering endured by the victims and encouraged others in similar situations to seek help from law enforcement.

A sentencing hearing will be arranged later, with each defendant facing a maximum of 20 years in prison for each forced labour count, and up to 10 years for the alien harbouring count.

Additionally, Bolaji Bolarinwa faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for each unlawful document conduct count.

Both defendants will also be required to pay mandatory restitution to the victims and may face fines of up to $250,000 or twice the gross grain or gross loss from the offense, whichever is greater.

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