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Couple Sentenced to 9 Months Imprisonment Each for Making Nigerian Nanny “essentially a slave”

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A Pennsylvania couple John and Godever Ibechem have been sentenced to serve nine months each in federal prison for bringing a woman from Nigeria into the United States and treating her as “a slave,” The Morning Call reports.

According to U.S. Attorney Josh Davison, the couple, who are also Nigerian citizens paid the 54 year old woman, identified by her initials R.O $20 every other week.

Davison added that as part of their plea bargain, the couple agreed to pay $50,000 to the nanny as compensation.

The couple, who were arraigned in November 2016, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and violations of the minimum wage law.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents who testified against the convicts, said the couple took advantage of her naivety and vulnerability.

Court documents reveal that John used his dead mother’s credentials to apply for visa for R.O. He also helped R.O assume his mother’s identity.

According to Davison, “They knew she didn’t know the value of the dollar. They knew she didn’t have the knowledge of the resources of the United States that could be of benefit to her.”

Davison added that because the couple knew R.O was unlikely to seek help due to her illegal stay in the country, they continued to breach the minimum wage law.

“She was terrified. She didn’t know where to go for help until finally, with the assistance of a neighbor, she was rescued,” Davison added.

The nanny “essentially became a slave,” U.S. District Court Judge Edward Smith said.

The couple admitted to smuggling R.O into the U.S. in 2009, to take care of their sons, who were aged 1 and 2 at the time.

In a letter read in Court last Thursday, the victim said she shared a small bedroom with the boys at the apartment in the 2700 block of Victoria Lane, Palmer Township, adding that she rarely slept and changed the children’s diapers while the parents slept.

She said that she did the cooking and cleaning too, adding that caring for the older son, who is autistic was a difficult job for her.

“I felt trapped. I thought I was going to die,” she said adding, “At the end I had severe stomach pains, weight loss and blotches on my skin,” the nanny wrote.

She added that she was afraid of going out to get care because she thought the couple would kill her family if she proceeds to do so.

The judge however, said that there was no proof of threat or physical harm on the nanny.

According to Davidson, John, 60, must report to a federal prison in May and Godever, 45, will begin serving her sentence after her husband completes his to allow her to care for the couple’s two boys.

The Express-Times, Easton reports that Defense attorney Gilbert J. Scutti, disclosed that R.O ran away from the home of the Ibechems after a disagreement in September 2014. The case was then brought to the attention of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. After investigations, the couple were then charged in November last year.

Scutti said that the couple sent money regularly to R.O’s family in Nigeria.

“I’m not one who would have somebody in my house and treat someone with indentured servitude. That’s not my nature. That’s not in my family’s nature,” John Ibechem was quoted as saying.

Davison said the nanny has been allowed to stay and work in the U.S. pending the result of her case. It is unclear whether she’ll be permitted to stay now that the case is over.

5 Comments

  1. Nahum

    March 21, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Nigerian couples in the U.K. and US, STOP THIS MADNESS!!!! Stop bringing in girls from Naija as maids. Manage yourselves and manage your homes by yourselves. These girls are sharp, a lot of them agree to the terms when they are leaving Nigeria and then they turn around and report to authorities in exchange for a work permit. If you must have a live in maid, abide by the rules of the land, pay them at least the minimum wage, give them breaks, health insurance, 40 hour weeks and weekends off. If you can’t afford this, you can’t afford a live in nanny. That rubbish you do in Nigeria will get you a jail term abroad. Respect yourselves!!!!

  2. Mochalicious

    March 21, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    This is a very serious issue here in the U.S. Many professional Nigerians bring in these women and sometimes, young girls for childcare and fomestic labor. I understand the convenience factor and the cost savings but it is not worth it. Even if there is no assault or coercion and you pay them a decent wage, there are many issues. These women are often on tourist visas and are not eligible to work. Also, taxes are not paid and there is the presumption that they are not free to come and go as they please. If this gets reported, the wahala is not worth it. Also, if your kid has a medical emergency in the home, you could also be found out. I am a single mom of 2 and I know how tempting it is to have a Naija nanny but many of these women are not qualified and one force fed a baby to death. Some try to meddle in your personal business. So, my US based fellow Naijas…let us run away from trouble if possible.

  3. slice

    March 21, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    They were not sentenced for enslaving her but for breaking the law. ILike the judge I don’t believe the woman was harmed by the couple. lady knew exactly what kind of arrangement they made for her

    • Seriously

      March 21, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      True. But I bet majority of nigerian couples/families would be considered to have broken the law if based here.
      why do Nigerian families enjoy treating their assistants like shit. The last time I visited Nigeria, I was baffled and couldn’t recover from the foolishness of my uncle and aunt having 8 maids, then drivers and security folks. There’s a separate house built in the same compound for them. They are pretty much treated like slaves. They are not allowed to sit, hang out in the regular areas we were in. They couldn’t eat regularly, they worked around the clock non stop. I mean that’s just borderline torture and abuse.
      I got up in the middle of the night, went downstairs to get water and my uncle’s wife told me I should have simply called one of the helpers to do it. Really? That’s just bizarre.
      One of the helpers couldn’t even play with my aunt friend’s baby.
      And my dad used such example of living well to encourage me in moving to Nigeria. I mean, I wish I can come to my apt with dinner cooked, laundry done sometimes when I’m exhausted from school and work but still I will choose this over that type of absurdity.

  4. critique

    March 21, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    this is why you don’t bring housegirls to yankee. it never ever works out. at best, they’ll run away or go back home. but over time, they will get frustrated and want to leave. too many people are being wrongfully accused of treating them as “slaves” and being imprisoned as a result. in naij, won’t a housegirl cook and change daipers?

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