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‘He poisoned her mind’: Florida man tried to marry 12-year-old niece, prosecutors say

Recognizing signs of physical child abuse

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year.
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U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year.

A Florida man was sentenced to 37 years in federal prison last week after a jury found that he sexually abused and tried to marry his 12-year-old niece, federal prosecutors said.

Mirza Hussain, a 56-year-old immigrant from Pakistan, brought his sister, brother-in-law and two nieces to live with him in Brandon, Florida, after they won an immigration lottery and moved to the United States from Bangladesh in 2010, according to court records.

The family from Bangladesh was “culturally isolated, had no jobs, little money, lacked transportation, and struggled to communicate,” prosecutors said, adding that they were “at least initially, alone and completely dependent on Hussain for housing and transportation.”

Hussain’s wife soon started to notice “strange behavior” between her husband and his niece, who was 11 and 12 at the time, according to prosecutors. Eventually Hussain’s wife called child services to report suspected child abuse — and then the wife moved out, as did the niece and her family, prosecutors said.

In January 2012, the niece’s parents called Hillsborough County authorities to report that they’d discovered “sexually charged messages” between Hussain and the niece, as well as explicit photos, prosecutors said. Authorities said even more cellphones were turned over to police later, showing ongoing sexually explicit contact.

The texts included Hussain “professing his love for her and his intention to marry her, discussing sex with her, soliciting naked photographs from her, and asking her to masturbate for him,” federal prosecutors in Tampa said in a news release on Monday. Prosecutors said Hussain “also manipulated her into falsifying reports claiming that her parents were abusing her.”

Hussain was convicted on charges of enticement of a minor, document fraud and aggravated identity theft. He was found guilty during a one-week trial in January, prosecutors said. Hussain is a U.S. citizen.

“This criminal put his own agenda first, hurting his own family,” U.S. Homeland Security Investigations Tampa Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero said in a statement. “He thought he could get away with his despicable behavior by lying and blaming others for his actions.”

Prosecutors said that while Hussain hosted the family at his home, he bought phones, jewelry and tight clothes for the young girl. He “sexually battered his niece and started living with her openly as if she were his spouse — in front of her family and his wife,” prosecutors said in the news release.

Hussain went to Bangladesh in November 2012 and got a fake birth certificate in the niece’s name, which said she was born in 1995 rather than in 1998, prosecutors said. Hussain then got United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to issue a new Legal Permanent Resident card for the girl based on the falsified age, court records said.

Then, in November 2013, Hussain showed up at the niece’s parents’ home with the residency card, showing it to the girl’s parents as “proof” that their daughter “was a newly-minted 18-year-old,” according to court records.

Her parents called Tampa police, and when officers responded the parents showed authorities the girl’s Bangladeshi passport to demonstrate she was a minor born in 1998 — not an 18-year-old, court records said.

Federal prosecutors said Hussain was “as calculated as he was manipulative, possessive and jealous.” He even tried taking the girl to nightclubs and bars, court records said.

“Hussain did not simply lure his niece into a brief romantic and sexual encounter,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum that called him an “aggressive child predator” and recommended life in prison. “He poisoned her mind, isolated her by turning her against her parents, and brainwashed her into believing that he and she were in love and destined to marry.”

The girl’s father testified at trial that Hussain had taken his daughter “to the bad side,” according to court records.

The abused girl said in a victim-impact letter that she fears that “had the family not left Hussain’s house, Hussain would have eventually abused her younger sister,” who was just 5 or 6 in 2010 when the family moved in, court records said.

In 2014, Brittany Koerselman was 15 and pregnant. Her 21-year-old boyfriend was facing possible statutory rape charges, so the Iowa couple made a trip to Missouri where 15-year-olds are allowed to marry with the consent of one parent.

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