- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 22, 2003

HONOLULU, Feb. 22 (UPI) — The owner of a garment factory in American Samoa faces sentencing in June after being convicted of holding scores of Asian immigrants in virtual "modern-day slavery" in the largest human trafficking case ever prosecuted by the federal government.

Kil Soo Lee, 52, was convicted in a Hawaii federal court late Friday on 14 counts of involuntary servitude, conspiracy and money laundering in a case that involved hundreds of Vietnamese and Chinese immigrants brought to Samoa to toil in his clothing factory in 1999 and 2000.

He faces 10 to 20 years in prison on each count and was scheduled for sentencing June 9.

Lee and his managers recruited around 250 immigrants, most of them young women, and then kept them confined at the Daewoosa Samoa Ltd. plant in Pago Pago in a state of what U.S. prosecutors called "modern-day slavery."

Justice Department officials alleged the workers were confined to the factory compound where they were fed meager amounts of food and forced to patronize a company store that kept them in a state of debt.

Testimony during the trial that began last October alleged that the immigrants were also physically abused and threatened with deportation by their supervisors.

The jury, which began deliberations Feb. 9, acquitted Lee's factory manager, Robert Atimalala, and his secretary, Virginia Soliai, on eight counts of conspiring with their boss to hold the workers in involuntary servitude.

The case, the largest of its type ever pursued by the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office, was tried in Hawaii because there is no federal judge sitting in American Samoa.


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