GREENBELT, Md. (AP) _ A Maryland woman was sentenced Monday to more than 17 years in prison for forcing a Cameroonian girl to work as a domestic servant for no pay, beginning when the girl was 11.

Theresa Mubang, herself originally from Cameroon, was convicted by a federal jury in November of involuntary servitude and harboring an alien. Prosecutors said she forced the girl to cook, clean and take care of Mubang's young children from November 1996 until November 1998. She also beat the girl, they alleged.

Mubang fled shortly after her conviction and was not in court Monday. Her attorney, Peter Goldman, said Mubang's use of a domestic servant was part of the ``cultural norms'' she brought from Cameroon, in west Africa.

U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Chasanow rejected that argument while sentencing Mubang to 17 years and 6 months in prison.

The offenses ``went well beyond any differences in cultural norms,'' Chasanow said. ``One simply cannot take advantage of young girls from other cultures.''

According to prosecutors, Evelyn Chumbow, now 18, slept on the floor and worked long hours. Mubang never enrolled her in school and sometimes forced Chumbow to stand all night as a form of punishment. Chumbow eventually fled the home.