HAGATNA, Guam — A 70-year-old female bar owner was sentenced in federal court Thursday to life in prison for her involvement in a sex trafficking scheme that forced young women and one juvenile girl into prostitution.
Song Ja Cha, owner of the Blue House Lounge in Guam, was also ordered to pay $200,000 in restitution to her victims, as well as a $10,000 fine. Following an eight-day trial in February 2011, a federal jury found her guilty on all 20 counts of an indictment charging her with sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, coercion and enticement to travel in interstate or foreign commerce for prostitution, and transportation of a minor for prostitution.
The case is the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Guam Police Department.
Court documents reveal that from 2004 through January 2008, Cha and her co-conspirators enticed and recruited approximately 10 victims to travel to Guam from the island of Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia. The victims were largely poor, young and uneducated.Cha lured the young women and one 16-year-old girl to Guam by promising them legitimate employment in a restaurant or store.In fact, Cha was the proprietor of the Blue House Lounge, a bar that included approximately six "VIP" rooms offering sex for sale.
According to evidence presented in court, Cha and her associates forced the victims to work in the bar's VIP rooms for 12 to 14 hours a day. When the young women first arrived at the Blue House Lounge, Cha stripped them of their passports, clothing and identities. She then employed a variety of techniques to compel and intimidate her victims – including physical assaults, threats of arrest, withholding food and restricting access to the outside world.
The victims testified they were terrified of Cha and her co-conspirators, and said Cha used the fact that police officers frequented the lounge to make them believe that she was "connected" and could easily have them arrested and jailed.
"No one should be forced to live in a world of isolation, servitude and terror as these victims were, particularly in a country that prides itself on its freedoms," said Wayne Wills, special agent in charge of HSI Honolulu, which has jurisdiction over the agency's enforcement actions in Guam."It's a sad reflection on human greed and heartlessness that people believe they can engage in this kind of egregious exploitation with impunity. This sentence should send a message to those who traffic in human beings – that ICE and its federal law enforcement partners are committed to protecting those who cannot protect themselves."
"Human traffickers trick, lie and coerce young women with a promise of work in a legitimate job," said U.S. Attorney Alicia Limftiaco. "In reality, these young women lose their freedom and are horribly demeaned by the sexual acts that they are forced to perform. Defendant Cha preyed on vulnerable victims and used threats and abuse to force them into prostitution.The jury's verdict makes clear that sex trafficking schemes will not be tolerated. We will continue to find traffickers and hold them accountable for their crimes."
This case was prosecuted by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division Criminal Section with assistance from the U.S. Attorney's Office for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
The public is urged to report human trafficking crimes to the ICE Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by completing its online tip form.