The man's voice on the audio recording, played in federal court in Prince George's County this week, is calm, conversational. He is talking with a woman, now 22, telling her it was not wrong for him to have sex with her when she was a juvenile.
"Rape is when you force someone to have sex with you against that person's will," the man says. According to authorities, the voice is that of George Chidebe Udeozor, 48, now a fugitive in Nigeria. Force normally involves the use of a gun or a knife, the man says, to which the woman replies, "I was just 15 years old."
The man disputes this, then adds: "If I felt I was harming you, I would've stopped. I told you I wanted to be gentle with you."
The exchange -- taped by an FBI agent in April 2002 without Udeozor's knowledge -- is part of the evidence prosecutors have presented in court. They hope to prove that Udeozor and his then-wife, Adaobi Stella Udeozor, both Nigerian immigrants who lived in Germantown, brought the alleged victim from their native country to the United States illegally in 1996. The couple then allegedly enslaved and abused her, physically and sexually.
Adaobi Udeozor, 45, a physician who is now divorced, is on trial before U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Greenbelt, charged with conspiring to harbor a juvenile, inducing the juvenile to illegally enter the United States and harboring her for financial gain. Each offense is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
George Udeozor has been charged with the same offenses. Although the indictment alleges that he "did force the juvenile to have sexual intercourse with him on numerous occasions," he has not been charged with rape in the case because the alleged sexual abuse did not occur on federal property. The State Department declined to comment on any efforts to extradite him to the United States.
The trial began last week and is expected to end late this month.
Thousands of women are recruited every year from impoverished countries to be live-in domestic workers in the United States, according to law enforcement officials and advocacy groups. Last month, a report by the Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley and the Washington-based group Free the Slaves said at least 10,000 people are working as forced laborers at any given time in the United States.
The 22-year-old woman allegedly was brought to the United States illegally at age 14 and lived with the couple until she called police for help in October 2001.
In his opening statement, lawyer Kenneth Ravenell, who represents Adaobi Udeozor, said the alleged victim was treated like a member of the family and was not abused by his client. He said the young woman concocted allegations of abuse because she wanted to sue the Udeozors and because she believed the accusations would help her remain in the United States. The Washington Post generally does not identify alleged victims of sex crimes.
The woman testified that in Nigeria in 1996, she overheard George Udeozor, who knows her family, tell her father that she could attend school in the United States if he brought her to his home. The woman said George Udeozor had her use a passport that belonged to one of his children and told her to use the name of that child if she was questioned by authorities.
Instead of enrolling her in school, the Udeozors put her to work in their spacious, five-bathroom home, the woman testified.
The Udeozors had five children when the young woman arrived, and a sixth was born a year later. The woman testified that she normally awoke at 6 a.m. or earlier to make breakfast for the older children and to prepare them for school. She spent much of her time cleaning and doing laundry, and took care of some of the children when Adaobi Udeozor took them to her office in the District, the woman testified.
She said that the Udeozors never paid her and that Adaobi Udeozor often berated her, telling her to "stop acting stupid, stop acting like a goat." The woman testified that, at times, Adaobi Udeozor struck her with a fist, an open hand and her shoe.
One day, the woman testified, she was made to sit on her knees and put her arms in the air while Adaobi Udeozor struck her left flank more than a dozen times with a cane.