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Man faces new charges after forced labor case ends

October 23, 2014

DETROIT (AP) — Officials charged an African ex-tennis pro with child abuse on Thursday, just days after a federal judge declined to keep him behind bars in a case of fraud, immigration crimes and forced labor.

Attorney General Bill Schuette announced three counts of first-degree child abuse against 45-year-old Jean-Claude Toviave. The felonies are punishable by up to life in prison.

The attorney general’s office said Toviave likely would get a court-appointed lawyer for the state case. Randall Roberts, Toviave’s lawyer in the federal case, told The Associated Press that he no longer represented Toviave and wasn’t previously aware of the state charges.

Toviave, a native of Togo, has been in federal custody for more than three years. U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow said Monday that Toviave had served enough time for the remaining convictions after an appeals court threw out the most serious one.

Toviave is in federal custody awaiting deportation, but Schuette’s office said the state charges are expected to halt those proceedings. He’s expected to be transferred to the Washtenaw County jail and appear in District Court, but a hearing wasn’t immediately set.

Toviave was a political dissident in Togo before being granted asylum in the U.S. He helped four children emigrate from that country in 2006 with fraudulent papers. They said they were beaten if they didn’t follow orders to vacuum, iron, cook, clean and shine shoes at their Ypsilanti home.

Tarnow sentenced Toviave to more than 11 years in prison in 2013. An appeals court intervened in August, however, and said the U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit had overreached. The court said the children’s treatment was “reprehensible” but probably a state crime, not a federal one.

That decision brought Toviave back to federal court Monday for a new sentence on other convictions of fraud and harboring aliens.

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