A federal jury in Prince George's County convicted a Silver Spring woman yesterday of forcing a Cameroonian girl to work as a domestic servant for two years in the late 1990s, beginning when the child was 11.
The woman, Theresa Mubang, 42, beat the girl, Evelyn Chumbow, now 18, with a high-heeled shoe, a metal broom handle, a cable and her fists, according to federal prosecutors and court testimony.
After a 21/2-week trial, the jury in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt deliberated for two hours before convicting Mubang of involuntary servitude and harboring a juvenile alien for financial gain. The offenses are punishable by a total of up to 25 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 28.
Mubang did not testify in the trial. Her attorney, Peter Goldman, declined to comment yesterday.
According to federal prosecutors, Chumbow was not the first Cameroonian girl whom Mubang abused and forced into servitude.
In January 1995, Mubang arranged for another Cameroonian girl, who was 10 at the time, to come to the United States using a passport issued to another person, according to papers filed by federal prosecutors.
No charges related to that girl have been filed. But authorities alleged in court documents that Mubang abused the girl, Cecilia Nkolo, forcing her to cook, clean and care for Mubang's young son without pay, according to court papers and testimony. Mubang beat Cecilia in the same manner as she did Chumbow, prosecutors said.
Authorities said Mubang eventually sent Cecilia home and replaced her with Chumbow.
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.
From November 1996 until November 1998, when she fled to the home of a nearby relative, Chumbow was forced to work long hours, cleaning, cooking and caring for Mubang's young son and infant son, according to federal prosecutors and court testimony.
Mubang told the girl that she smelled, made her sleep on the floor, beat her numerous times, never enrolled her in school and once made her stand up all night as a form of punishment, said prosecutor Amy E. Pope, a trial attorney with the Justice Department's civil rights division.
"The defendant exploited a young, poor, uneducated girl who had no legal right to be in this country," Pope said in court.