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Two Chinese Nationals Sentenced for Sex Trafficking Charges in American Samoa

WASHINGTON - Shengji Wang and Fu Sheng Kuo, both Chinese nationals, were sentenced today in federal court in Hawaii for their roles in conspiring to force women into prostitution in American Samoa, announced Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Wang was sentenced to 62 months imprisonment. Kuo was sentenced to 63 months imprisonment. Wang and Kuo will be deported after serving their sentences. Both defendants previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the civil rights of their victims.

Wang and Kuo, along with several co-defendants, operated a scheme to recruit and import Chinese women and hold them in prostitution in nightclubs and brothels in American Samoa. 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.

“Sex trafficking is a heinous crime that ruins lives and robs victims of their dignity,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will work tirelessly to rescue victims of human trafficking and ensure that those who engage in this deplorable conduct are brought to justice.”

Five defendants have pleaded guilty in this case. In April 2007, two co-defendants, Kueiling Chen and Lili Zhang, both Chinese nationals, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport women in foreign commerce for purposes of prostitution, based on their roles in the same scheme. In August 2007, defendant Iona Uiagalelei, of American Samoa, pled guilty to using intimidation and threats to persuade witnesses to provide false testimony during the human trafficking investigation. In September 2007, Zhang was sentenced to 11 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release, and Chen to six months imprisonment and three years of supervised release. Uiagalelei is scheduled to be sentenced in Hawaii on Jan. 7, 2008.

Human trafficking prosecutions such as this one are a top priority of the Department of Justice. In the last seven fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, has increased by nearly seven-fold the number of human trafficking cases filed in court as compared to the previous seven fiscal years.  In FY 2007, the Department obtained a record number of convictions 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 FBI, and is being prosecuted by Susan French of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.