They called her “the idiot.”
For two years, a 38-year-old nanny wasn’t allowed to wash her hair, take hot baths, or eat anything but leftover scraps, according to federal prosecutors. If her bosses didn’t like how she dressed their children, she was slapped and dragged by the hair.
Now a Texas couple is facing prison time for allegedly holding their Nigerian nursemaid hostage, forcing her to work 20 hours a day and tormenting her in a suburban Houston house of horrors.
On Monday, the feds nabbed Chudy Nsobundu, 56, and his wife, Sandra, 50, on charges of forced labor, visa fraud, withholding documents, and conspiracy to harbor an alien. If convicted, they face up to 60 years in prison.
The husband and wife were slated to be released on bond after appearing Tuesday in federal court, despite prosecutors warning the couple could be a flight risk, KPRC-TV reported.
Court papers reveal how the Nigerian-born husband and wife—both naturalized U.S citizens—allegedly lured their nanny into household slavery and physically and verbally abused her before she escaped by calling a human-trafficking hotline in October.
The woman, identified in the criminal complaint only as “A.E.,” emigrated from Lagos in September 2013 and moved into the couple’s five-bedroom residence in Katy, Texas—about 30 miles west of Houston.
Just a year before, according to the complaint, an acquaintance had introduced her to Sandra, who was adopting two babies in Nigeria and asked A.E. to provide child care. The woman watched the children in Nigeria for $100 a month until they moved to Texas.
The nanny—who has a grade-school-level education and cannot read or write Igbo proficiently—signed a five-year contract with the Nsobundu family, believing she would come to America to continue caring for the couple’s five children, the complaint alleges.
But once she arrived, her dreams for a better life turned into a nightmare.
Sandra allegedly snatched the woman’s passport and documents as soon as they left the airport, then forced the woman to throw away her clothes and belongings. The nanny’s only permitted possession would be a copy of her Bible, into which she secretly stashed her Nigerian voter’s card, prosecutors say.
The woman toiled from 5:30 a.m. until 1 a.m., cleaning the residence, cooking meals, and watching the kids. Sandra allegedly told her she was never allowed to watch TV, let alone sit down, on the clock.
According to prosecutors, the nanny wasn’t allowed fresh food and could only eat leftovers from the family’s prepared meals. On the rare occasions she had tea, she was forced to use milk strained out of the children’s cereal bowls.
Sandra often threatened to send the woman, who is unmarried and has no children, back to Nigeria, the complaint charges.
“During her employment, A.E. was subject to physical abuse… slapped and/or hit on the back of the neck one to two times a week by Mrs. Nsobundu… depending on what she did wrong,” a federal agent stated in an affidavit.
During one incident, Sandra allegedly struck the nanny for carrying the babies the wrong way. The woman said she lived in constant fear that Sandra would hit her left arm, which was broken years ago and never healed correctly. The Nsobundus had previously claimed they’d help her seek treatment for the injury, according to the complaint.
On Easter in 2015, Sandra allegedly dragged the nanny by her hair because the mother disapproved of the socks her 3-year-old daughter was wearing. Then the Mommie Dearest allegedly removed her slipper and slapped the nanny across the face with it.
“Mrs. Nsobundu then said she would shoot her and kill her for not taking care of the babies how she wanted them cared for,” the affidavit states. “A.E. felt pain from her hair being pulled and had bruising on her face from where the slipper hit her.”
Public records show the Nsobundus own a health-care agency called Nelo Health Care Services LLC in Katy, Texas. A woman who answered the firm’s phone hung up after a Daily Beast reporter inquired about the couple.
The Nsobundus don’t appear to have a criminal record, save for a January 2015 incident in which Chudy allegedly interfered with an emergency call Sandra tried to make.
According to online court records in Fort Bend County, Chudy Nsobundu was arrested for preventing Sandra from placing an emergency call—a misdemeanor. A jury trial is scheduled for March 1.
Chudy’s attorney, Wayne Heller, told The Daily Beast he expects the charge to be dismissed. The case involves “[Chudy] and his wife arguing. He allegedly interrupted her calling 911. Nothing really newsworthy,” he said.
The forced labor charges, however, blew the Houston attorney away.
“What a strange set of new allegations,” Heller said on Tuesday, adding that he “was totally shocked” by the nanny-slave accusations.
“Let me say this about Chudy,” the lawyer continued. “He’s a very religious man. He’s active in his church. Before that 911 case, he’d never been in any sort of trouble in his entire life. As far as the new allegations go, what a shocker!
“The facts read like a cheap novel: strained milk. ‘The idiot.’ Looks to me like the remake of a bad film,” he quipped.
Heller described Chudy as “your basic middle-class kind of guy.”
Neighbors were equally appalled.
Paula Meche told KPRC-TV the children often played with other neighbor kids.
“We do crawfish boils, New Year’s Eve, and Fourth of July, and sometimes, they would send food, and sometimes, they would come out and eat. They loved to come play with all the kids.” Meche said.
She added of the nanny accusations, “I don’t know how people can treat other people like that.”
Court papers paint a picture of a tortured babysitter who was subjected to physical and verbal abuse for the tiniest faults in her housekeeping.
During one April 2015 episode, Sandra allegedly punched the nanny in the back with a closed fist when one of the kids cried loudly outside and refused to go on a morning walk. The terrified au pair said she fell to the ground.
Later on, Chudy Nsobundu said he was sorry and handed her medication and a bottle of water, prosecutors say.
Still, the man of the house apparently didn’t go easy on her either. Chudy allegedly called her “idiot” or would say “the idiot didn’t do her job” when Sandra berated the nanny for failing to meet expectations, the court documents say.
The victim wasn’t allowed to wash her hair while employed with the family, court papers allege. When Sandra was gone one day, she tried to take a shower and was caught by a 9-year-old daughter, who immediately called her mom.
Sandra allegedly instructed the girl to hand the phone to “the idiot,” and told the nanny “she did not bring her to America to wash her hair and that she needed to get out of the bath and take care of the children,” according to court documents.
The complaint states the nanny wasn’t allowed to have her hair cut or to see a doctor. Her only contact with the outside world occurred when she took the children for a walk around the neighborhood twice a day, or occasionally accompanied the kids to the doctor or to church.
“A.E. had contemplated leaving the family, but stayed because she was more concerned for the wellbeing of the two youngest children who were not yet school age,” the affidavit states, referring to the adopted kids she nursed in Nigeria. “A.E. believed if she left, the children would be home alone during the upcoming summer.”
The nanny ultimately broke free in October 2015, sometime after she learned she hadn’t been paid since arriving to the United States. The Nsobundus had allegedly assured her they’d deposit money to her Nigerian bank account.
Two weeks before her escape, she called the National Human Trafficking Resource Center to report a potential domestic servitude situation in Katy, Texas, according to court papers. The feds caught on not long after.
A case manager with YMCA International’s Trafficked Persons Assistance Program helped the nanny flee the Nsobundus’ home.
Authorities say they soon learned that the family lied on the woman’s visa application, claiming she was Chudy’s sister and that she was married to a man listed as his driver in Nigeria. Chudy also allegedly listed his own relatives as her parents on an application for a U.S. passport.
On Facebook, Chudy listed his current job as “self-employed” and a previous role at Houston Methodist Hospital. He also said he studied at the University of Houston.
His last public post was in April 2015, when he blasted a Huffington Post article critical of presidential contender Hillary Clinton.
“There is no illegal activity with the Clintons, just pure and adulterated jealousy and I am shocked and in utter disbelief with you lefties,” Chudy wrote.
“The Clintons are an American success story and I constantly talk to my kids about it. If you work hard and dream big, the sky is your limit.”