Links Between Guam Police, Closed Brothel Alleged

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Mamasan said to have used officers to control trafficked women

By Brett Kelman

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Sept. 17, 2012) – A victim, who at 16 was forced to work in a Tamuning brothel, testified last year that a Guam police officer threatened to arrest her if she ever left the business, according to federal court recordings obtained by the Pacific Daily News.

The girl said she was "very afraid" of the officer, who spoke to her outside the Blue House lounge after another employee ran away. According to courtroom testimony, brothel owner Song Ja Cha often threatened to call the police to find her employees if they fled.

"The police officer told me that he knows that I owe mamasan money and I cannot leave the Blue House because if I do he will look for me and arrested me," the victim said through a translator, according to the courtroom recordings.

The Guam Police Department has said only one officer was investigated for alleged ties to the Blue House brothel. But the courtroom recordings include the testimony of a lounge supervisor who said three police officers frequented the brothel and were friends with its owner.

The District Court of Guam released more than five hours of audio recordings to the Pacific Daily News last week.

Blue House was open in Tamuning for about four years, ending in 2008. Brothel owner Cha was convicted of 20 federal crimes related to human trafficking and now faces life in prison. She is set to be sentenced on Friday.

No officers charged

During the Cha trial in February 2011, federal prosecutors said Guam police officers frequented Blue House -- both in and out of uniform -- and that Cha used police officers as "tools and weapons" to control the women she forced into prostitution.

Despite the allegations, no police officer has been fired, arrested or charged in connection with Blue House since the trial. Guam police have said the Blue House case is closed. The Office of the U.S. Attorney has declined to comment on the matter.

Although the police department earlier this month said it had no reason to suspect that more than one officer was connected to Blue House, witness testimony suggests that several officers often visited the business.

Blue House supervisor Freda Eseun testified that the officers who frequented the lounge were offered free drinks, and that the women at Blue House never approached the officers for help. Eseun, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, agreed to testify in exchange for recommendation of a lightened sentence.

"There's a guy named Tony. A guy named Mario. I don't know the other guy's name, but he's kind of chubby. He always comes with Tony," Eseun said, adding later, "Yes, (Cha) told us that it's her friends."

Eseun also said she went into one of the brothel's VIP rooms with a fourth police officer.

The only officer who was investigated was David Manila, who was a witness during Cha's trial.

Manila testified that he had sex with a Blue House employee after buying a "ladies drink." Manila said he went to the Blue House several times a week.

The police department launched an internal investigation into Manila after his testimony made headlines. The investigation found that he "abetted prostitution," but Manila was allowed to keep his job and is still a police officer.

Earlier this month, when asked about the extent of the internal investigation, police department spokesman Officer A.J. Balajadia said Manila was the only officer investigated for connections to Blue House.

"If, through the investigation, other officers had been identified, action would have been taken towards those involved," Balajadia said in a statement. "'Other officers involved' could have many meanings such as witness(es) or patrons who drink at that location. Manila was the only one identified as having direct involvement in this case."

Debts

According to court documents, Cha relocated her victims to Guam and controlled them by pretending they owed her large debts. In fact, the relocation cost Cha no more than a few hundred dollars, and the debts were lies, court documents state.

Cha recruited poor, uneducated women -- mostly from Chuuk state, in the Federated States of Micronesia -- by promising them high-paying waitressing jobs.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Fishman prosecuted the Blue House case. During closing arguments, Fishman said Cha exploited her relationship with her police "friends" to control the women who worked at the brothel.

Saknin Weria, who worked at the brothel as Cha's translator, testified that the victims would hide from police. Weria, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, testified as part of a plea agreement.

Weria said police officers came to Blue House two or three times a week, and Cha called them "friends." The women feared the police, Weria said.

"When they saw the police officers walk in they just get up from their seat and run into the kitchen to hide," Weria said, according to the courtroom recordings.

Pacific Daily News Projects and Data Editor Steve Limtiaco contributed to this report.

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