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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Three individuals who were arrested earlier this week for luring women from China to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and then holding them in slavery and forcing them to work as prostitutes, were indicted late yesterday, the Justice Department announced.

Kwon Mo Young, Kwon Soon Oh, and Meng Ying Yu were indicted by a grand jury in Saipan on 29 counts, including forced prostitution, involuntary servitude and extortion.

The indictment charges the three with allegations filed in a compliant earlier this week, including that, from 1996 through 1998, the three collaborated with recruiters in China for Chinese women to travel to Saipan by offering them the opportunity to earn money as waitresses in a restaurant they owned. All of the women were required to pay the recruiters and the defendants a sum of money that would cover their travel and visa expenses.

The complaint also alleged that when the women arrived in Saipan, they were taken to an apartment located above the restaurant. Instead of waitressing, the women learned they would be "bargirls" in the defendants karaoke bar, where they would be forced to have sex with customers. If any woman resisted, she was subject to physical violence and often threatened with death. To discourage women from escaping, the three also told the women that immigration officials would find them and they would be deported.

If convicted, the three defendants face up to life in prison . The government will also seek restitution for the women who were enslaved. Each defendant is being held in Guam.

The investigation was conducted by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, with the assistance of U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI in Saipan. The defendants were arrested with the assistance of the FBI in Guam, as well as the DEA, INS and CNMI's Departments of Public Safety and Labor and Immigration.

Last April, Attorney General Janet Reno announced an inter-agency federal task force to combat the serious problem of modern-day slavery and worker exploitation in the United States.

The task force, co-chaired by the Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and the Solicitor of the Labor Department, utilizes the resources of the Department of Labor, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Criminal Division, Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, Violence Against Women Office, and Office of Victims of Crime, as well as the FBI, and INS to create a coordinated effort to investigate and prosecute these cases of involuntary servitude.

In addition to law enforcement officials in Saipan and the federal task force, the investigation is the result of the Administration's CNMI Initiative on Labor, Immigration and Law Enforcement, a broad based multi-agency initiative designed to increase resources and oversight in the CNMI, a U.S. commonwealth located in Micronesia. As part of the initiative, an attorney from the Civil Rights Division's Criminal Section was sent to investigate recurring complaints of civil rights violations including treatment of women and children trafficked in the international sex trade.

Over the past three years alone, the Justice Department has brought ten involuntary servitude cases involving more than 150 victims. This is also the fifth case of international trafficking leading to an arrest or indictment brought in the CNMI in the past year.

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