Cha sentenced to life for sex trafficking, prostitution - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Cha sentenced to life for sex trafficking, prostitution

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - The mastermind behind the prostitution ring at the Blue House Lounge was sentenced to life behind bars on Thursday morning. Two of her workers also appeared in District Court to tell their story, but the case is still unraveling as federal authorities are now looking back into the involvement of Guam Police officers who were customers at the bar.

"For far too long Song Ja Cha victimized the woman in this case," detailed Jared Fishman, trial attorney for the USDOJ. "(It's been) four and a half years since they've been rescued and I am going to say we are very proud of the victims for showing the courage to come into court to testify to tell their story." The 71-year-old Cha was sentenced to life in prison. The former club owner was found guilty of bringing young Chuukese women to Guam and forcing them to work as hostesses and prostitutes.

U.S. Attorney Alicia Limtiaco said, "I think the whole community if not made aware already by this case is certainly going to be waking up and that we need open our eyes and take a stand because we need to do something about this."

Cha stood in court with an interpreter by her side continuously expressing concern about her previous attorney and interpreter dropping out from the case. Cha asked for a final wish that she be allowed to see her family one last time. Her defense attorney, Joe Rizanno, requested that she be placed at a women's facility in California so that she can be near her family. Judge Dean Pregerson stated he will make the recommendation. Cha was also ordered to pay back restitution in the amount of $200,000 to the women she victimized.

The first one of those women was sentenced to credit for time served with three years supervised release. Freda Eseun was a one of Cha's trustee's who hadn't received a single penny while working for her. Esuen's attorney John Gorman said, "We were very happy with the sentence my client Freda received; she's a very young woman, very poor, very limited education, only seventh grade and came from a very small island in Chuuk, so she was vulnerable to Ms. Cha's manipulations."

Saknin Weria was also sentenced to three years supervised release for her involvement as a trustee. Weria got pregnant after her first sexual encounter at the lounge. Both were ordered to perform 100 hours community service and could face possible deportation. Both apologized in the courtroom for their actions.

Judge Pregerson even read one of the victim impact statements where a young woman described that she was miserable working for cha and that it was like being in a prison cell where she was forced to take shots so that she wouldn't get pregnant. "It is a horrible case and a lot of women were abused in this case," detailed Gorman.

Despite today's sentencing, there is still growing concern from the community about the police officers that may have been involved in this case.  Said Gorman, "Some police officers had sex and served as enforcers with these girls so therefore they also were preying on these young vulnerable Micronesian women. And nobody's been punished and that leaves a lot of questions hanging as to how this could happen that they could sexually exploit these young woman and get away with it."

Limtiaco couldn't comment on the subject and declined to confirm if her office is investigating the officers, saying only, "Any inquiry that we receive whether from our legislature or other government officials or members of our community we will obviously take very seriously...there are many issues that are related and can be related to these types of cases and offenses and the work will continue."

In the meantime, Limtiaco confirms her office has received information and claims alleging other prostitution activity on Guam, but she could not discuss the details at this time.

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