FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
GARMENT FACTORY OWNER CONVICTED IN LARGEST EVER
HUMAN TRAFFICKING CASE PROSECUTED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
WASHINGTON, D.C.- A federal jury returned a guilty verdict today against the owner of an American Samoa garment factory in the largest human trafficking case ever prosecuted, the Justice Department announced today.
Kil Soo Lee, owner of the Daewoosa garment factory, was convicted on numerous federal charges, including involuntary servitude, extortion and money laundering. The defendant, charged in 2001 in U.S. District Court in Hawaii, illegally confined and used as forced labor over 200 Vietnamese and Chinese garment workers.
From March 1999 through November 2000, Lee and his managers conspired to use arrests, deportations, food deprivation and beatings to force workers to operate the Daewoosa factory. The workers were recruited from China and from state-owned labor export companies in Vietnam. Evidence presented at trial revealed that recruits paid fees of approximately $5,000 to $8,000 to gain employment at the Daewoosa factory and risked retaliation if deported.
In March of 1999, after months of mistreatment, the workers complained about their plight and attempted to obtain food from local residents. Lee and his co-conspirators retaliated by confining workers in the fenced compound. The abuse continued into November of 2000 when the defendants ordered and carried out a mass beating of Vietnamese workers.
Kil Soo Lee is the third person convicted in this case. Prior to trial, two of Kil Soo Lee's co-conspirators, a Samoan manager and a Samoan garment worker, pleaded guilty to trafficking charges. Their sentencing is scheduled for June 2003.
"Human trafficking is more than just a serious violation of the law; it is an affront to human dignity," said Attorney General Ashcroft. "The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the victims of trafficking and to bringing to justice all those who violate the civil rights of trafficking victims."
"Today's guilty verdict is a victory in the largest human trafficking case ever investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by the Department of Justice," said Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Today's conviction demonstrates that the Department of Justice is firmly committed to ensuring that those who traffic in human lives are aggressively investigated, swiftly prosecuted and firmly punished. The defendants in this case exploited over 200 Vietnamese and Chinese workers in what amounted to nothing less than modern-day slavery. We are pleased with the jury's verdict and we thank them for their careful deliberation in this case."
This case was prosecuted by attorneys from the Criminal Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and was investigated by the Honolulu regional office of the FBI. The victim witness coordinator in the US Attorney's Office also assisted in this case.
Since January 2001, the Department of Justice has charged, convicted or received sentences for 92 human traffickers in 21 cases. The Department has prosecuted 33 traffickers under the statutes created in the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).