WASHINGTON - Shengji Wang, a Chinese national, pleaded guilty in Hawaii yesterday to one count of conspiracy to violate the civil rights of women who were smuggled into the U.S. Territory of American Samoa. According to the plea agreement, Wang, along with several co-defendants, was involved in a scheme to recruit and import Chinese women and hold them in prostitution in nightclubs and brothels in American Samoa. Fu Sheng Kuo, another Chinese national, pleaded guilty to the same offense on May 10, 2007.
Each defendant acknowledged in his or her plea having a role in recruiting and arranging travel and immigration documents for Chinese females to travel to American Samoa to engage in prostitution. Upon arrival, the victims, who were unpaid, were denied access to their passports and return airline tickets, and were denied the opportunity to leave until they had paid off increasing debts.
“Human trafficking is nothing short of modern-day slavery,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is fully committed to rooting out this horrible crime and prosecuting those who would so brutally enslave others.”
Each defendant faces a maximum term of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Kuo is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 15, 2007. Wang is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 22, 2007.
On April 5 and 6, 2007, two co-defendants, Kueiling Chen and Lili Zhang, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport women in foreign commerce for purposes of prostitution, based on their roles in the same scheme.
Human trafficking prosecutions are a top priority of the President and the Department of Justice. In the last six fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, has increased by six-fold the number of human trafficking cases filed in court. In fiscal year 2006, the Department obtained a record high number of defendants charged and defendants convicted in human trafficking prosecutions.
The case is being investigated by FBI Special Agent Mark Granger of the American Samoa office of the Honolulu Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Susan French of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.