Former hospital janitor Jean-Claude Toviave serves 12 years after enslaving African kids

Children held as slaves tell terrifying stories

YPSILANTI, Mich. - Every year, hundreds of thousands of children are victims of human trafficking. Sometimes they are sold for money. In the case of four children who would end up in Ypsilanti, Mich., they were sold for the American Dream.

Jean-Claude "Kodjo" Toviave brought the four children into the United States in 2006. He told their parents he wanted to give them an education. He used passports with false names and birthdays. The fake documents showed him to be their biological father.

Once the children were in the United States he told them they had to act as though they were his children. They were not allowed to call home to their families. They were not allowed to make their own decisions. Toviave decided what they ate, how much they slept, and he forced them to work for him.

If they didn't do as Toviave said, he beat them with broomsticks, a toilet plunger, sticks, ice scrappers and phone chargers.

Now, Toviave is in prison serving a 135-month sentence. He has been convicted of forced labor, visa fraud, mail fraud and harboring aliens.

Our Scripps sister station 7 Action News wanted to know what happened to his victims. In the video player above, you'll hear from two of them. They hope their story inspires you, shows the strength of the human spirit, and raises awareness about how we all need to be alert to stop crimes against children.

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