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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Micronesian couple indicted on charges of forced labor

Pair allegedly threatened 19-year-old and kept her against her will

SEATTLE - A federal grand jury has indicted a Seattle-area couple on charges stemming from a multi-agency probe involving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) that allegedly revealed the pair held a 19-year-old Micronesian woman in their home and compelled her to provide domestic service without compensation.

Edik Kenit, 29, and Choimina Lukas, 31, both of Longview, Wash., were indicted last week by the federal grand jury in the Western District of Washington for forced labor and attempted forced labor. The two are nationals of the Federated States of Micronesia and are being detained at local federal detention center pending trial.

According to the indictment and documents filed in the case, for 11 months Kenit and Lukas forced the young woman to perform household labor and child care without pay. According to the indictment, the victim was threatened with harm and her identification documents were confiscated in an effort to compel her continued service to the defendants.

"No one should be forced to live in a world of isolation and servitude, particularly in this country where we take pride in our individual and collective freedoms," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of the Seattle HSI office. "This indictment sends a strong message to those who falsely believe they can hold people against their will and act with impunity."

Lukas and Kenit appeared last week in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Wash., where they were ordered held pending trial.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

In addition to ICE HSI, the case was investigated by the Seattle Police Department High Risk Victims Unit and the Longview Police Department. Law enforcement received critical help from non-governmental organizations which specialize in providing services to victims of crime.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ye-Ting Woo and Trial Attorney Daniel Weiss of the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit in the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.