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Former American Samoan Government Official Sentenced for Obstruction of Federal Sex Trafficking Investigation

WASHINGTON - Iona Uiagalelei, former Assistant Chief of the Department of Property Management for the American Samoan government, was sentenced Monday, Jan. 7, 2008, in federal court in Hawaii for obstructing a federal sex trafficking investigation. In August 2007, Uiagalelei pleaded guilty to witness tampering for instructing two Chinese women to provide false and misleading information to a federal grand jury, the federal prosecutor, and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.

Uiagalelei was a business partner with Chinese national Fu Sheng Kuo, who, 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 the opportunity to leave until they had paid off increasing debts. Uiagalelei sponsored numerous Chinese nationals to enter and reside in American Samoa who then engaged in Kuo’s prostitution business.

Uiagalelei was sentenced to 13 months imprisonment and three years of supervised leave. Uiagalelei reports to federal prison Monday, Jan. 14, 2008. Four other defendants in this case have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced. On Friday, Jan. 4, 2008 Fu Sheng Kuo was sentenced to 63 months imprisonment, and Shenji Wang was sentenced to 62 months imprisonment, both on human trafficking charges. 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 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.

Human trafficking prosecutions 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.

This case was investigated by FBI Special Agent Mark Granger of the American Samoa office of the Honolulu Division of the FBI and was prosecuted by Susan French of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.