In one of the worst-possible cases of black-on-black crime imaginable, a suburban Atlanta woman has been convicted for enslaving two young women from Nigeria.
It reportedly took a federal jury just over an hour on June 10 to find Bidemi Bello, 41, guilty of luring women into bondage after promising them attractive employment as nannies and the opportunity to be educated in the U.S.
Bello was charged with a number of offenses, including human trafficking, harboring aliens, making false statements on citizenship applications, forced labor and seizing her victims’ passports to force them into servitude. She is scheduled to be sentenced to prison on Aug.24 by U.S. District Judge Bill Duffey.
The combined charges she was convicted of carry a maximum of 35 years in prison and $750,000 in fines. Additionally, Bello will lose her U.S. citizenship and be deported back to Nigeria after serving her sentence.
For nearly a decade, prosecutors said, Bello waged a campaign to entice and then enslave Nigerian women to clean and provide child care at her homes in the upscale enclaves of Suwanee and Sugar Hill north of Atlanta. The first victim was recruited in 2001 and escaped three years later. Bello’s second victim was lured away from Nigeria and escaped her grasp in 2006.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Coppedge praised the women for the bravery they exhibited while testifying against Bello. Coppedge also hinted that similar prosecutions may be in the offing, saying, “This is shocking behavior going on in a normal-looking subdivision … I think there are other instances in Georgia and certainly the metropolitan area.”
In court testimony, Bello was portrayed as a merciless taskmistress with no qualms about submitting her victims to inhumane conditions. The atrocities included frequent beating and verbal abuse; required bathing from buckets of water instead of a shower; being fed spoiled food and forced to eat vomit if they became ill; and strenuous labor, such as hand-trimming Bello’s lawn.
Brock Nicholson, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, issued a statement about Bello’s conviction that read, in part, “Few crimes are more shocking than the trafficking of human beings in this country.
“No one should have to live in a world of isolation and forced servitude.”