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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Jan. 8) - Former ASG [American Samoa Government] official Uiagalelei Iona will serve 13 months in federal prison for witness tampering in connection with a federal sex trafficking investigation of a prostitution operation discovered last year in Pago Pago, according to his Honolulu-based attorney Rustam A. Barbee.

The sentence was handed down yesterday by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Oki Mollway at the federal court in Honolulu.

The former Property Management official is to report on Monday, Jan. 14 at the federal detention center in Honolulu, to begin serving his time, said sources in Honolulu.

Uiagalelei is also subject to three years of supervised release and has been ordered to pay a $100 special assessment fee. There was no restitution ordered in his case.

The defendant could have faced up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 for witness tampering, according to his plea agreement with prosecutors.

Uiagalelei's defense attorney Rustam A. Barbee said from Honolulu that the prosecution asked for 18 months imprisonment during yesterday's sentencing hearing.

"The defense had requested 4 months imprisonment but believes the sentence was generally fair given the defendant's age, medical condition, remorse, acceptance of responsibility and the remote likelihood that he would ever be in trouble again," said Barbee in an e-mail message.

Uiagalelei is the last of five defendants convicted in connection with the prostitution operation in Pago, which involved recruiting and arranging of travel and immigration documents for Chinese females to travel to American Samoa to engage in prostitution.

Uiagalelei had sponsored co-defendants Kueiling Chen and Lili Zhang, who have been convicted of conspiracy to transport women in foreign commerce for purposes of prostitution.

In pleading guilty to witness tampering, prosecutors say Uiagalelei instructed Chen and Zhang not to testify that they were prostitutes or that they had met with Uiagalelei or received instructions as to what they should say in their testimony before a grand jury investigating co-defendant Fu Shen Kuo's prostitution business in the territory.

Uiagalelei also told the women not to say that the I&L Uiagalelei Corporation, which exclusively sponsored numerous Chinese nationals for Kuo's prostitution enterprise, was involved in the prostitution business, according to the plea agreement.

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