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Couple Guilty in Teen Servant Case

September 8, 2006

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) _ A couple pleaded guilty Thursday to charges they forced their immigrant niece to work long hours without pay in their home and at the family espresso stand.

The girl, Lamia Ennassime, came from Morocco to stay with her aunt and uncle at age 12 in September 2001, with the understanding that she would help care for their young son and help with the housework in exchange for lodging and a chance for a good education.

She made breakfast and dinner, did laundry, cleaned the house, and worked weekends and summers without pay at the espresso stand.

After her six-month visa expired, her uncle used her illegal status to threaten her, prosecutors said. He said that if she didn’t work longer and harder, he would report her to immigration authorities.

The girl escaped in July 2005 with help from friends and an immigrant rights group.

Abdenasser ``Sammy″ Ennassime, 47, and his wife, Tonya, 41, pleaded guilty to forced labor and harboring an illegal immigrant, respectively.

As part of a plea deal, the U.S. attorney’s office agreed to recommend a sentence of six months’ home confinement, three years of probation and $65,226 in back wages to be paid to their niece.

The girl had been staying at a safe house in the U.S., but because she is a juvenile the U.S. attorney’s office declined to say whether that is still the case or if she has returned to Morocco.

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