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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
10/19/2011

Seattle-area couple sentenced for human trafficking violations

WASHINGTON —A Micronesian couple who now reside in the Seattle-area were sentenced Wednesday for their role in a forced labor scheme uncovered in an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Seattle Police Department's High Risk Victims Unit and the Longview Police Department.

Edk Kenit, 28, and Choimina Lukas, 30, of Longview, Wash., were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan of the Western District of Washington. Kenit was sentenced to 40 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Lukas was sentenced to 20 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. The case is being prosecuted jointly by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ye-Ting Woo and Trial Attorney Daniel Weiss of the Civil Rights Division's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

Kenit and Lukas each pleaded guilty in July to compelling an 18-year-old Micronesian woman's servitude by withholding documents. Kenit and Lukas admitted in court that in March 2010 they recruited the victim to travel from Micronesia to be their domestic servant and arranged for her passport and travel to the United States. Upon her arrival, Kenit and Lukas took control of the victim's passport as part of their scheme to compel her to work as their domestic servant providing full-time childcare, cooking and cleaning services without compensation.

Kenit and Lukas also admitted that they obtained a Social Security card in the victim's name which they concealed from her. The defendants caused the victim to obtain full-time employment at a local chicken processing plant and required that she cash her pay checks and give the earnings to them. This employment lasted for five months and was in addition to the domestic services the victim continued to provide. Kenit and Lukas admitted that throughout the scheme they isolated the victim, forbidding her to have friends, go out of the house unmonitored or participate in social gatherings unrelated to family activities. The entire scheme lasted nearly one year before the victim escaped.

"The defendants' exploitation of a vulnerable young woman is reprehensible," said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. "Human trafficking is a scourge and the Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute persons who engage in such intolerable conduct."

"These two defendants preyed on a young and vulnerable member of their own family. They brought her to this country with promises of education and travel, and instead forced her to work both in their home and at hard labor to support them economically," said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington Jenny A. Durkan. "Thankfully, an alert neighbor and the Longview Police Department were able to rescue the victim from this abuse."

ICE HSI and the other law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation received substantial support with the case from non-governmental organizations which specialize in providing services to crime victims.