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For the many women who have gotten their hair braided they know the amount of work, time and physical demand it takes. Braiders in any given beauty shop will spend hours, having clients back-to-back using every muscle in their hands to make intricate locks.

A craft that originated in Africa, it’s no surprise that there’s a booming business in almost every city in the nation. But unfortunately Togo native, Lassissi Afolabi used this in a negative way as he was charged for smuggling dozens of girls to East Orange, N.J. to work without pay in various salons.

According to Black Voices:

The women were forced to turn over their earnings, including tips to Afolabi, his ex-wife Akouavi Kpade Afolabi, their 33-year-old son Dereck Hounakey and other conspirators.

Hounakey admitted to federal investigators over a year ago that his mother recruited individuals to pose as relatives of the girls and that another defendant, Geoffry Kouevi, helped the women study facts about their fake husbands and fathers in order to obtain the fake visas. Once the women entered the United States, the defendants forced the women to work at the salons.

The women lived isolated existences: they had no friends, could not contact family members and were not allowed to keep their passports or any identification. If any of the women broke the rules, they would be punished. Hounakey even admitted to striking a woman for making a simple phone call. The young man also confessed to having sex with several of the women, including one minor.

Afolabi was sentenced to 24 years.


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