Three Guam police officers are scheduled to appear in the Superior Court of Guam this morning to answer to charges of kidnapping, prostitution, criminal sexual conduct, intimidation and official misconduct related to their alleged activities at the former Blue House karaoke lounge.
The lounge actually was a brothel, where women — mostly immigrants from Chuuk state in the Federated States of Micronesia — were forced into prostitution. It was closed in 2008.
Lounge owner Song Ja Cha is serving life in federal prison for sex trafficking and still faces related charges in local court. The three police officers — David Manila, 51; Anthony Quenga, 43; and Mario Laxamana, 48 — are now Cha’s co-defendants in local court after prosecutors added their names and charges to the original 2008 indictment.
Police Chief Fred Bordallo last month started a special investigation into the Blue House after the Pacific Daily News published several stories about alleged police involvement in the brothel, including names provided by victims.
Four police officers, working with the Office of the Attorney General, were ordered to investigate whether any police officers were inappropriately involved with the brothel.
The indictment of the police officers is a result of the special investigation, which is ongoing. It also will examine whether there was “any deliberate lack of investigation,” said Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio.
A document was found during the special investigation, stating former Police Chief Paul Suba in 2008 ordered an internal investigation into alleged police involvement in Blue House. It is unclear whether that internal investigation was conducted or what it found. Police never revealed any findings, as required by law.
Manila, Quenga and Laxamana were arrested late Friday and early Saturday based on a sealed indictment from a Superior Court grand jury.
The indictment lists the initials of 17 alleged victims.
All three officers face common charges, including: conspiracy to compel prostitution; conspiracy to promote prostitution; conspiracy to commit kidnapping; conspiracy to commit felonious restraint; solicitation to compel prostitution; solicitation to promote prostitution; solicitation to commit kidnapping, solicitation to commit felonious restraint; compelling prostitution; promoting prostitution; attempt to promote prostitution; criminal intimidation; and official misconduct.
Those offenses are punishable by one to 10 years in prison.
Manila faces additional charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and second-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Quenga faces charges of attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct and attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Those offenses, which are first-degree felonies, are punishable by as much as life in prison.
The revised, or “superseding,” indictment was made public yesterday morning, and law enforcement officials held a joint press conference at the governor’s office early yesterday afternoon to discuss it, noting they couldn’t talk about every detail because of the ongoing investigation.
“This case is not an indictment of the Guam Police Department,” said Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas, who noted the case involves three officers from a force of several hundred.
“It was GPD who rescued the victims and broke the case in 2008,” he said.
First on scene
Police raided Blue House in 2008 after a worker complained her passport was being held and someone forwarded her complaint to the police department. While there, police uncovered evidence of prostitution.
Internal police reports obtained by the Pacific Daily News state Laxamana was one of the first officers to respond during the Jan. 13, 2008, Blue House raid because he was already in the Blue House parking lot on what he said was a “police service call.”
Witnesses during Cha’s federal trial said several police officers were frequent Blue House customers, visiting the lounge several times a week, where they were offered free food and drink.
Manila admitted in federal court, during Cha’s trial, that he had sex with a Blue House worker.
Victims also reported that police officers threatened to arrest them if they didn’t listen to lounge owner Cha or if they left without settling their debts to Cha.
A federal prosecutor during Cha’s trial described police as enforcers of Cha’s illegal operation.
U.S. Attorney Alicia Limtiaco, whose office successfully prosecuted Cha, and who has been assisting in the special investigation, yesterday couldn’t say whether or not federal charges also are possible against the arrested police officers.
“Federal review is still pending,” she said.
Police Chief Bordallo said the indictments prove that police officers aren’t above the law, “and can be held accountable for their actions.”
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