- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2002

A high-ranking government official from Ghana and two family members now living in Takoma Park have been charged with forcing an illegal immigrant to work for them as a house slave.
Grace Coleman, the deputy minister of finance of Ghana; daughter Barbara Coleman-Blackwell, a Ghanaian citizen with permanent residency status; and her husband, Kenneth Blackwell, a U.S. citizen, were indicted Oct. 16, by a federal grand jury on seven counts of violating civil rights and immigration laws, Thomas M. Dibiagio, U.S. attorney for Maryland, said yesterday morning.
The indictment states Mrs. Coleman and her daughter conspired to falsify documents and lie to U.S. and Ghanaian Embassy officials to obtain a visa for Margaret Owusuwaah and bring her to the United States in February 2000. Mr. Blackwell is a reputed co-conspirator in the case.
Miss Owusuwaah was an unpaid house servant for 17 months in the Blackwells' home in the 6300 block of Eastern Avenue on the D.C. border, according to the indictment.
When Miss Owusuwaah arrived from Africa, Mrs. Coleman confiscated her visa and Mrs. Blackwell hid the document so she could not leave, the indictment also stated. The three also reputedly told Miss Owusuwaah she would be deported and imprisoned in Ghana if she spoke to authorities.
This is the second forced, domestic-labor indictment in Montgomery County in a year.
In December 2001, a federal jury convicted Silver Spring residents Louisa Satia, 36, and her husband, Kevin Waton Nanji, 40. The couple, both immigrants from Cameroon, recruited a teenage girl from that country under the pretense of paying her way to college.
The couple were convicted of involuntary servitude, conspiracy to harbor and harboring a girl for financial benefit. Mrs. Satia also was convicted of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and passport fraud.
The two were sentenced to 20 years in prison, three years supervised release and forced to make restitution and pay at least $250,000 in fines.
Mr. Dibiagio would not comment further about the Coleman-Blackwell case, and several calls to the Embassy of Ghana were not returned.
Mrs. Coleman and her daughter could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Mr. Blackwell could get 10 years in prison and the fine.
If found guilty of harboring Miss Owusuwaah for financial gain and threatening her to obtain service, the three would also be required to pay restitution.
The charges were brought after a lengthy joint investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
The investigation is ongoing, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daphene R. McFerren and Seth Rosenthal, a Justice Department attorney, will prosecute the case.

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