ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania couple has been sentenced to federal prison for sneaking a Nigerian woman into the country so she could become what a judge called “essentially...a slave.”
John and Godever Ibechem were sentenced Thursday to serve nine months each, The Express-Times in Easton reported.
The nanny “essentially became a slave,” according to U.S. District Court Judge Edward Smith.
The Palmer Township couple acknowledged they plotted to smuggle the woman in to care for their two sons, ages 1 and 2, and didn’t pay her minimum wage. The woman was 54 when she posed as John Ibechem’s mother, who was actually dead, and used the mother’s passport to enter the U.S. unlawfully.
The victim provided around-the-clock care for the children and was paid about $20 every other week. She was swindled out of about $205,000 in wages, prosecutors said.
“I felt trapped. I thought I was going to die,” the woman said in a letter read Thursday in federal court. She wasn’t in court for the sentencing.
Defense attorney Gilbert Scutti said the couple also sent money to the nanny’s family in Nigeria.
“I’m not going to say it was all roses when she was here, but we’re not talking about physical abuse, sexual abuse or deprivation of liberty,” Scutti said.
The Ibechems agreed to pay the woman $50,000 as part a plea deal.
John Ibechem, who was born in Nigeria, as was his wife, said he wouldn’t treat someone like an indentured servant.
“That’s not my nature,” he said. “That’s not in my family’s nature.”