Song Ja Cha found guilty on all counts - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Song Ja Cha found guilty on all counts

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - A unanimous verdict from a federal jury in the Blue House sex trafficking case could put Song Ja Cha behind bars for life. Cha was convicted on 20 counts of conspiracy, sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, attempted sex trafficking, and coercion and enticement to travel for purpose of prostitution.

Cha stood between her defense attorney, Howard Trapp, and an interpreter as the verdict was read in the courtroom this morning. It took jurors less than two days to weigh the evidence and testimony presented in the case to make their unanimous decision.

U.S. Attorney for Guam and the CNMI Alicia Limtiaco said, "We believe justice has been served for these victims as well as the entire community." She added, "We want to thank the victims who were extremely courageous and strong in coming forward and being a part of this trial it took a lot of them to do this."

It was their testimony that convinced the jury that Cha was well aware of what was happening inside the Blue House Lounge.  Despite Cha's testimony that she was unaware of any sex for money occurring in her establishment, various women testified how they were brought to Guam from Chuuk thinking they would be working at a store or restaurant.  Instead they testified that they were forced to perform sexual acts with customers in exchange for money and were told they could not leave until they paid off their debt with Cha.

Limtiaco says the prosecution and the verdict should serve as a warning for massage parlors and other establishments engaged in prostitution. "Again, this is all a message to individuals, organizations and businesses that conduct these illegal activities and exploit women, men and children in prostitution, in any form of sexual exploitation," said Limtiaco.

While jurors may have been relieved of their duties from the case, District Court Judge Dean Pregerson set another bench trial for May 11 as Federal Prosecutor Jared Fishman indicated the government's plans to pursue forfeiture of money that was confiscated when police first responded to the club.

Limtiaco continued, "There is a certain amount of currency that's been associated with the activities involving the sex trafficking and the prostitution and that bench trial will speak to what is the evidence that associates that amount of currency with this case."

Because she faces significant time in prison, Fishman asked the judge that the defendant be remanded to custody pending her sentencing which is scheduled for May 18.  The request was granted.

The feds meanwhile still have some investigating to do, following the testimony of Police Officer David Q. Manila, who admitted to paying $40 for sex at the Blue House.  Limtiaco confirms they are looking into his testimony and allegations that other police officers engaged in similar conduct. "We will be reviewing the entire set of circumstances with regard to any police officers that may have been involved," Limtiaco confirmed.

Police Chief Nominee Captain Fred Bordallo says he has no tolerance for his officers being involved in any illegal activity, telling KUAM News, "That automatically is being investigated right now and under Internal Affairs investigation; in terms of the potential of criminal investigations right now we are still having the guidance, using the guidance of the Office of the Attorney General."

Trapp meanwhile tells KUAM News that he intends to ask for a new trial, and if that is denied, he will file an appeal.

U.S. Attorney Limtiaco meanwhile also thanked non-profit organizations, including the Alee Shelter and Guam Esperansa saying they were critical in providing support to the women who were forced into prostitution at the Blue House Lounge.

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