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February 25, 2003
Factory Owner Found Guilty of Involuntary Servitude
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ederal jury has found the owner of garment factory guilty on 11 counts of involuntary servitude for exploiting workers from Vietnam and China, the Associated Press reports.

“Kil Soo Lee has exploited over 200 Vietnamese and Chinese people in what amounted to nothing less than modern-day slavery,” U.S. Justice Department attorney Lou deBaca tells the AP.

The jury also found the owner guilty of money laundering, conspiracy and extortion, according to the AP. Although the factory was located in American Samoa, the trial took place in Honolulu, Hawaii because American Samoa does not have a sitting federal judge.

The jury acquitted two other defendants on charges they conspired with the factory owner.

Prosecutors contended during the four-month trial that the firm beat workers if they disobeyed, starved employees and threatened the workers with deportation if they reported the owner to authorities, the AP reports.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft called the case the largest human trafficking case ever investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by the DOJ, according to the AP.

"Human trafficking is more than just a serious violation of the law; it is an affront to human dignity," Ashcroft says. "Today's conviction demonstrates that the Department of Justice is firmly committed to ensuring that those who traffic in human lives are aggressively investigated, swiftly prosecuted and firmly punished.”

Kil Soo Lee, scheduled to be sentenced in June, could receive up to 20 years in prison for each of the 11 counts of involuntary servitude, and up to 10 years for each of the three remaining charges for which he was convicted, the AP reports.


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