- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2005

A naturalized U.S. citizen from Cameroon who fled last year to her home country after being convicted in Maryland of enslaving an 11-year-old girl has been returned to the United States to serve a 17-year prison sentence.

Theresa Mubang, 42, was returned Saturday after being detained in Cameroon at the request of the U.S. government, said Manny Van Pelt, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“Cooperation between Cameroon and the United States has ensured Mubang will serve the prison term she earned,” said Marcy Forman, who heads ICE’s Office of Investigations.

A federal jury in Maryland convicted Mubang in November of involuntary servitude and harboring an illegal alien for financial gain. She fled shortly after her conviction.

Mubang was sentenced in absentia Feb. 28 to 17 years in prison and ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution to the victim, Evelyn Chumbow, who was 11 in 1996 when Mubang illegally brought her from Cameroon to the United States.

Mr. Van Pelt said Mubang’s return was coordinated through the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon, and the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.

Before sentencing, Mubang said she had to care for her children, and a federal judge released her on the condition that she wear an electronic home-detention device, Mr. Van Pelt said. She removed the device and fled to Cameroon, leaving her children in the care of her severely mentally handicapped brother.

Mubang was convicted of using a false passport to bring Evelyn to the United States. Mubang told Evelyn’s family in Cameroon that the child would receive a better life and an education in U.S. schools, according to court records.

But testimony in federal court showed that Mubang cut off communication between the girl and her family and forced the girl to work as a cook and maid in Mubang’s Silver Spring home.

In addition, the girl was forced to care for Mubang’s sons and sleep on the floor of the children’s room, according to the testimony. She also was forced to care for a neighbor’s child.

Mubang blocked the girl from attending school and would not allow her to leave the house except to perform specific tasks, according to records. She also verbally, mentally and physically abused the girl.

Evelyn escaped in 1998 by running away with a visiting cousin while Mubang attended a conference.

ICE investigators found that before smuggling Evelyn into the country, Mubang had brought Cecilia Nkolo, 9, of Cameroon, to the United States, where she also was forced to work and was abused, Mr. Van Pelt said. Mubang sent Cecilia back to Cameroon after the girl called Maryland Child Welfare Services.

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