The Large US Human Trafficking Case in American Samoa ten years ago
According to Polynesian World, one of the biggest human trafficking cases in US Federal Government history was in American Samoa. Daewoosa, Ltd. was a garment factory located in American Samoa. The owner, operator, president and director of Daewoosa was Kil Soo Lee. Lee recruited internationally for his workers, targeting Vietnam, China and Samoa. The workers were required to pay $3,600 to $8,000 to be hired for three years; if they did not finish their term, they were charged an additionally $5,000 causing each of the workers and their families significant hardship.
Lee controlled all of the living conditions for the workers inside a highly secured compound. He controlled what the workers ate, whether or not they could leave the compound, with whom they could speak outside of the company and when they worked, hours for which they were often not compensated. If workers returned to the compound after the nightly curfew, they were abused by the guards. Complaining about the conditions resulted in punishment: lack of food, physical abuse, detainment or deportation.
To reinforce the workers’ enslavement, Lee threatened arrest and jail time for noncompliance. Upon arrival to the island, Lee charged exorbitant fines for their immigration card and detained theirpassports so they could not leave the country or find another employer.
Lee was investigated on several occasions for unlawful labor practices, but used coercion and threat, promising to withhold food and pay, or deport workers, to ensure workers dropped their cases. The United States Department of Labor (DOL) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) began, in May 1999, an investigation on Lee, eventually reimbursing many unpaid workers. The day the back payments were made, Lee demanded the workers sign the checks over to him, which he placed in his personal account.
The jury trial commenced on October 22, 2002. It included 36 witnesses, including 21 individuals from the factory. Several counts were dismissed, but Lee was found guilty of 14 of the remaining 18 counts. His sentence included 480 months in prison, $1,826,088 in restitution payments and $1400 in court fines.