Minister and wife plead guilty to forced labor of African woman

A married couple in Ellenwood pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to exploiting an African woman and forcing her to work for them, authorities said.

Juna Gwendolyn Babb, 56, and Michael J. Babb, 54, could face 10 and three years in prison, respectively.

According to evidence presented in court, in March 2005, Juna Babb visited Swaziland in southern Africa and invited a then 29-year-old cook to travel to the United States and work as a caterer for a wedding. The wedding never existed. Juna Babb instead harbored the women in her home, concealed her from law enforcement detection and kept her working as a housekeeper until early 2007.

Juna Babb also threatened the victim with travel debts for taking her from Africa to the United States, and with deportation since she was in the country illegally. Prosecutors say that because of these tactics, the woman was trapped and did not know where to go for help.

Michael Babb pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony for concealing his wife’s conduct and for lying to federal agents, authorities said.

"This case reminds us that modern day slavery is occurring in our communities," United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said. "It is especially disturbing that the victim was exploited by a minister and his wife."

This isn't an isolated case in Georgia.

Last month, a Nigerian citizen in Atlanta was convicted for trafficking women from Nigeria to work as nannies.

She was convicted by a federal jury on charges of two counts of forced labor, two counts of trafficking for forced labor, one count of document servitude, one count of alien harboring and two counts of making false statements in an application to become a U.S. citizen.

A new law went into effect July 1 that is intended to discourage human trafficking and provide greater protections to people subjected to those offenses.

The law, HB 200, swept through the Georgia Senate, passing unanimously in March after a long push for legislation of its nature in the state.