October 31, 2011

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

October 25, 2011 Seattle, Washington-According to several Washington state news reports, a Micronesian couple who were indicted in March of this year for crimes surrounding the virtual imprisonment of an 18-year-old woman in their Longview, WA home were sentenced for the crime.

Edk Kenit, 28, and Choimina Luka, 30 were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan of the Western District of Washington. Kenit was sentenced to three years six months in prison. Lukas was sentenced to one year and eight months in prison. Both prison terms will be followed by three years of supervised release upon their completion. Kenit and Luka each faced a possible maximum term of five years.

The forced labor scheme was uncovered in an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Seattle Police Department's High Risk Victims Unit and the Longview Police Department.

Kenit and Lukas each pleaded guilty in July to compelling the woman's servitude by withholding documents. They admitted in court that in March 2010 they recruited the woman known in court documents only by the initials, "S.S." to travel from Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia to be their domestic servant. They said that they arranged for her passport and travel to the United States and admitted that when S.S. arrived they confiscated her 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 applied for a Social Security card in the victim's name and then withheld it from her. They also compelled her to get a full-time job at Foster Farms, local chicken processing plant but did not let her keep her own paychecks. They required her to cash her paycheck and give all of the money to them. The job at Foster Farms lasted for five months and was in addition to the domestic services the couple continued to compel her to provide.

The couple admitted that for the entire time that S.S. lived with them they isolated the victim, forbidding her to have friends. They would not allow her to go out of the house alone or to participate in social gatherings that were not family related.

S.S. escaped after one year of servitude.

A news article by The Daily News (TDN. com) which serves the Lower Columbia area of Washington said that according to court documents culturally, S.S. felt bound to obey her elders. Kenit and Lukas also caused S.S. to believe that she would "suffer serious harm" if she didn't do as they ordered, according to the indictment. During the last month of her imprisonment, Kenit also forced himself on S.S. sexually, according to court documents.

"The defendant's 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 on 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."

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.