A federal judge sentenced a Palmer Township couple to nine months in federal prison for smuggling a destitute Nigerian woman into the United States to work as their nanny, the judge said, as “essentially a slave.”.
John and Godever Ibechem must also pay $50,000 to the woman, whom they gave $20 dollars every other week while she was working in their home in the 2700 block of Victoria Lane, Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Davison said.
They pleaded guilty to conspiracy and violations of the minimum wage law. The victim, identified in court documents only by her initials R.O., was like a slave. The Ibechems took advantage of her naivety and vulnerability.
“They knew she didn’t know the value of the dollar. They knew she didn’t have the knowledge of the resources of the United States that could be of benefit to her,” Davison said. .
The Ibechems also knew the woman was unlikely to seek help because she was in the country illegally. “She was terrified. She didn’t know where to go for help until finally, with the assistance of a neighbor, she was rescued,” Davison said.
According to the charges against the Ibechems, the couple, who are U.S. citizens from Nigeria, decided in 2009 that they needed a nanny to care for their children.
People in Nigeria informed the Ibechems of R.O., whom they persuaded to travel to the United States. John Ibechem allegedly filed false information with the U.S. Department of State, using his dead mother’s name to apply for a visa for R.O.
He also helped R.O. assume his mother’s identity. In June 2009, Ibechem sent his mother’s Nigerian passport to R.O., and later that month she flew to Newark, N.J.