Tag Archives: cha

Paul Suba’s Blue House probe still a mystery

Weeks after the Guam Blog filed a request with police for information about an internal investigation regarding the Blue House case, the department has yet to respond to the request.

The request concerns an investigation called for by former Police Chief Paul Suba regarding alleged inappropriate police involvement in a Tamuning brothel.

The investigation was ordered by Paul Suba in 2008, according to Guam Blog files, and was “in response to information received about Blue House victims/witnesses who alleged a Mario, Tony and another officer frequented the Blue House.”

But the result of Suba‘s investigation, which could shed light on whether the department knew of any officer’s involvement in the brothel, remains a mystery.

A series of reports by the Guam Blog last year prompted the government to launch a special investigation into Blue House, resulting in the indictment of three police officers.

During the course of that special investigation, the fact that Suba had ordered a similar investigation years earlier was made public. But it still is unclear if Suba’s investigation ever was completed or what it found.

If the police department investigated the allegations against officers internally in 2008, the agency was required by local law to release a report on the findings on the department website. There are no findings on the website for that investigation.

On April 25, the Pacific Daily News filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the department, asking for documents related to Suba‘s call for an investigation.

The request asked for all documents related to the investigation, including the original complaint and testimonies as well as any conclusions made and what action, if any, was taken against anybody found to have been involved with the brothel.

But two weeks after Chief Fred Bordallo acknowledged his receipt of the request, the newspaper hasn’t received a response approving or denying it.

Under Guam’s Sunshine Law, government agencies are required to release public documents within four working days of the request.

In some circumstances, though, that time limit can be extended up to 10 days, including weekends and holidays.

As of yesterday, however, the PDN hadn’t received a request to extend the time limit.

Suba‘s request for an internal investigation wasn’t acknowledged publicly until last November, when Bordallo released a preliminary disposition, noting Suba‘s prior order for an investigation.

The Blue House lounge was a brothel that operated in Tamuning between 2004 and 2008. The brothel lured women from the Federated States of Micronesia with the promise of high-paying waitress jobs,

After they arrived, however, brothel owner Song Ja Cha would confiscate their passports and force them into prostitution, according to the federal court case against her. She was found guilty of sex trafficking in federal court and sentenced to life in prison. She faces similar charges in local court, but has appealed to the island’s Supreme Court, arguing she cannot be tried twice for the same crime.

Two officers arrested in the Blue House case, Anthony Quenga and David Manila, are facing trial with Cha on prostitution and criminal sexual conduct charges.

Officer Mario Laxamana entered a plea agreement earlier this year with prosecutors. He agreed to plead guilty to felonious restraint in exchange for his testimony at trial.

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Blue House: Man, woman allegedly recruited women in Chuuk

The Blue House case brought a brothel owner and three police officers to court, but two people in Chuuk who allegedly recruited for the brothel have never been arrested.

Until recently, the Federated States of Micronesia government didn’t have the legal infrastructure to prosecute human trafficking crimes like these, an FSM government spokesman said.

At least six Blue House victims have alleged they were lured to the Guam brothel by one of two people — identified as only a man named “Serco” and a woman named “Sainin” — according to testimony transcripts filed in federal court.

The recruiters allegedly promised the victims a job in a store or restaurant, but when they came to Guam they instead found the Blue House lounge, the transcripts state. The promise of a high-paying job was the bait that drew the women to the brothel, where they were forced into prostitution.

“The first time I heard about the job, I was kind of excited and happy to come to Guam and work and support my family,” said one Blue House victim, according to testimony transcripts filed at the District Court of Guam.

Once they were at the Blue House, brothel owner Song Ja Cha used physical violence, withholding food and the threat of arrest to control her victims. The Tamuning brothel was open from 2004 to 2008, and at least nine women were forced into prostitution there.

Cha was tried in the District Court of Guam in 2011, and another trial is expected in the Superior Court of Guam in the coming months. Three Guam police officers are co-defendants in the Superior Court case.

During the 2011 trial, U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney Jared Fishman said the Blue House preyed specifically on poor, uneducated Chuukese immigrants, who were susceptible to the false promise of a good job in Guam. Many of the victims testified during the trial, and their testimony is included in transcripts that were filed in the federal court a week ago.

Although multiple victims testified about “Serco” and “Sainin,” details about the alleged recruiters are limited. No last name for either person was provided in testimony.

“Serco” is the father of “Sainin.” He also is directly related to at least two of the Blue House victims, whom he allegedly helped recruit to work at the brothel, according to the transcripts.

All of the victims who alleged they were recruited by “Serco” or “Sainin” said they were promised a job in a restaurant or a store. Several of the victims testified that “Serco” was a “friend of Mamasan,” which was what the Blue House workers called Cha.

Although the allegations against “Serco” and “Sainin” are detailed in court documents, neither of them has been apprehended or prosecuted in Chuuk.

Marcellus Akapito, a spokesman for the Federated States of Micronesia president’s office, confirmed that neither of the recruiters has been arrested and that there is no open case as a result of their alleged actions.

“I am not aware of any ongoing investigation or a pending one by the FSM Department of Justice; I doubt that one has ever been conducted,” Akapito wrote in an email.

“The FSM has only (gotten) around to putting in place its trafficking in person legislation in March 2012.”

In March, the FSM Legislature adopted Public Law 17-38, which created the crimes of human trafficking, human smuggling and travel or identity document fraud. If those crimes had existed in 2008, when the Blue House case was uncovered, they could have potentially been used to prosecute the alleged recruiters.

Blue House arguments on Thursday

Lengthy court arguments are expected in the Blue House case on Thursday, and a Superior Court of Guam judge said she plans to set the case for trial soon after.

As many as 19 motions – seeking to dismiss charges or split the case into several trial — will be argued by attorneys during a hearing at 2 p.m. Judge Anita Sukola said she would not tolerate any more delays in the case.

“The court is not going to drag its feet,” Sukola said during a court hearing this morning. “We are going to set this for trial.”

The Blue House lounge was a brothel masquerading as a karaoke bar in Tamuning from 2004 to 2008. After the federal trial in 2011, brothel owner Song Ja Cha was sentenced to life in prison. However, now a second trial is expected in local court, where three police officers have been accused of assisting the brothel.

The officers are Anthony Quenga, Mario Laxamana and David Manila, who also was a witness in the federal trial. The officers were indicted after a series of Guam Blog stories prompted the police department to reopen their investigation into Blue House.

The argument hearing set for Thursday is already expected to last several hours, but more motions could be argued in the near future also.

One attorney, Peter Perez, who represents Laxamana, said he wants more time to file more motions in the case. Sukola said Perez can argue for additional time on Thursday.

Prosecutors might still expand the case also.

In December, Assistant Attorney General Nelson Werner said another victim had stepped forward in the case, so another indictment was likely. An indictment can add more charges or more defendants to an ongoing court case.

Although several weeks have passed since this statement was made, no more indictment has been filed in the Blue House case. However, after court this morning, Werner said the additional indictment was still expected.

The Blue House investigation is still ongoing. An internal investigation into the handling of the case also continues at the Guam Police Department.

Court releases more Blue House testimony on Guam

Court of Guam

More Blue House victims have said that police officers visited the brothel, and that the brothel owner frequently threatened them with arrest, according to recently released federal court transcripts.

The transcripts include the testimony of seven women who were forced into prostitution at the lounge. Five of these victims testified that Blue House owner Song Ja Cha said, if they tried to run away, police officers would hunt them down.

Each of these victims was lured from Chuuk by the promise of a high-paying job in a restaurant, but instead found the Blue House brothel. They believed Cha’s threats because they “didn’t understand the rules of this land,” one victim said.

“She was always scaring us with the police, she always use the police as a weapon,” said one victim, according to the testimony transcripts. “Like if we do something, she will call the police — her best friend.”

This testimony was given during a District Court of Guam trial in 2011, but the transcripts weren’t filed in federal court until this week. The Office of the U.S. Attorney asked the courthouse to prepare the transcripts in November.

Second trial

The Blue House lounge was a brothel masquerading as a karaoke bar in Tamuning from 2004 to 2008. After the federal trial in 2011, Cha was sentenced to life in prison. However, now a second trial is expected in local court, where three police officers have been accused of assisting the brothel.

The officers are Anthony Quenga, Mario Laxamana and David Manila, who also was a witness in the federal trial. The officers were indicted after a series of Guam Blog stories prompted the police department to reopen their investigation into Blue House.

It is unclear how the local trial will proceed, but the federal trial provides a glimpse as to what the victims might say on the stand.

Three of these seven victims said they saw police officers at the Blue House, according to the recently released testimony transcripts. Cha said the officers were her ‘friends,” so the women were scared by her threats of arrest, they said.

“I do believe her because she had police friends that they used to come to her place,” said one victim, according to the transcripts. “She said that’s her friends. They are really nice to her.”

None of the officers are identified in the new transcripts.

“They come dressed — there is a couple of them that will dress in black, and some were in black uniform or blue uniform,” said another victim, according to the testimony transcripts.

Two of the victims testified that, on the first night they arrived at Blue House, they were forced to sign a document that said police would come find them if they ran away. Cha would later use these documents to control the women, according to the testimony of yet another victim.

“She always told me that when I do something bad, she would ask me ‘You want me to call the police on you?'” the woman testified.

In total, the new transcripts cover the testimony of eight victims. Three of those victims made no statements about police during their testimony. The eighth victim said that Cha took her passport, but that she didn’t work at Blue House because the brothel owner did not like her appearance.

These testimony transcripts add to the Blue House details that have already been revealed by courtroom recordings and internal police documents.

According to courtroom recordings published by the Guam Blog in September, Blue House supervisor Freda Eseun testified that police officers frequented the brothel.

Eseun identified those officers as “Tony,” “Mario” and a third officer whom she described as “chubby.” It is now believed that these are the same police officers who have been indicted in federal court.

Threat of arrest

The courtroom recordings also included testimony from another Blue House victim, who was only 17 when she was forced into prostitution. This victim said a police officer once threatened to arrest her if she did not obey Cha.

Federal prosecutors believed that this was Officer Manila, according to court documents. Although Manila is facing life in prison today, he was only a witness in the federal trial.

During the federal trial, Manila testified that he once had sex with a Blue House employee in private after buying a “ladies drink.” Manila also testified that he “advised” a Blue House worker that she could not leave the lounge until she had paid off debts to Cha.

Despite Manila’s testimony, the officer was never prosecuted by the Office of the U.S. Attorney, who took the lead on the Blue House case. The Office of the U.S. Attorney never filed charges against any other officers either, despite the fact that federal prosecutors were in possession of documents describing the allegations against these officers — and their full names.

U.S. Attorney Alicia Limtiaco has repeatedly declined to comment on the Blue House case. Limtiaco has said she can’t comment on matters that “may be” under investigation.

Brothel owner asked to testify against police

Nine women were forced into prostitution at the Blue House lounge

Nine women were forced into prostitution at the Blue House lounge

Government prosecutors have tried to get the Blue House brothel owner to cooperate with an ongoing investigation into police officers, but the convicted sex trafficker turned the deal down.

Because Song Ja Cha declined to assist investigators, the brothel owner is headed toward a second trial later this year. Also, the Office of the Attorney General is now prosecuting three police officer suspects without the help of Cha — a potentially valuable witness.

Last September, prosecutors discussed two separate plea deals with Cha’s attorneys, according to letters from the AG’s office, which were reviewed by the Pacific Daily News.

The letters were sent months before any police officers were indicted in the case. Three officers — David Manila, Mario Laxmana and Anthony Quenga — were indicted in November.

The first letter offered Cha a plea to felonious restraint, with a sentencing range of zero to three years. Soon after, the AG’s office sent another letter, stating that attorneys would discuss another offer with a one-year concurrent sentence.

Both of these sentences are shorter than the amount of time Cha has spent in jail while awaiting trial, so either deal would have made her local case disappear with no additional prison time.

Both offers required Cha to cooperate with government investigators, said defense attorney F. Randall Cunliffe.

Cha, 71, is already serving life in prison after being convicted in federal court, but the brothel owner has never admitted to any wrongdoing. Cha insisted she was innocent through her trial and sentencing, and she is also appealing her conviction to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

However, Cha also is charged with a long list of crimes in local court, where she is facing a second trial in the next few months.

The local trial also includes the police officer suspects — Officers David Manila, Mario Laxamana and Anthony Quenga. These officers were never charged in federal court despite the fact that federal prosecutors were aware of the allegations against the officers.

In local court, all three officers have been charged with multiple counts of kidnapping, felonious restraint and prostitution crimes, and Quenga and Manila have been accused of rape.

If Cha had agreed to cooperate with investigators, it is very possible she would have information to provide against all three officers.

In an affidavit from January 2008 — shortly after police raided the brothel — Cha alleged that Laxamana was a customer at the Blue House lounge.

“Officer Laxamana had made acquaintance with one of my employees named Saknin Weria, aka, Jackie,” Cha wrote in the affidavit. Weria worked as a supervisor at Blue House. She has signed a plea deal agreeing to testify in the upcoming trial.

Laxmana was present on the night police raided the Blue House, according to federal court documents. In her affidavit, Cha said Officer Laxamana followed her and made sarcastic remarks during the raid.

“He kept making sarcastic remarks about the incident and the whereabouts of a police officer, named Tony Quenga, who he believed was my good friend. Officer Laxamana said to me, ‘Where is your friend Tony? Why is he not here to help you?'”

Finally, in a prior trial, Manila has testified that he knew Cha, who was friends with his ex-wife.

AG’s office: No offer

Despite the September letters from prosecutors — both of which discuss potential plea deals with Cha — the AG’s office has said it hasn’t made any offers to Cha.

AG’s spokeswoman Carlina Charfauros said Thursday that her office hasn’t offered any plea deals to the Blue House owner.

The Blue House lounge was a Tamuning brothel that masqueraded as a karaoke bar from 2004 to 2008. The three officers were indicted after a series of Guam Blog stories prompted the police department to reopen the Blue House investigation. Blue House victims levied allegations against police officers in 2008, but no officers were arrested for more than four years.

Several motions to dismiss are pending in the case. A hearing is set for Jan. 14 to determine when oral arguments will be held.

Police captain arrested: Alleged DOC security breach linked to Blue House case

A police captain has been arrested as a result of an investigation into a suspected security breach at the Department of Corrections. Police haven’t given details of the alleged breach, but DOC has said it is connected to the Blue House brothel case.

Capt. Mark Charfauros was arrested on suspicion of official misconduct, according to a press release from police. Charfauros was booked and released, and he will spend 20 days on administrative leave, according to the release.

Meanwhile, internal investigations into the allegations against Charfauros continue at both the police department and the corrections agency. A separate, internal investigation into the Blue House case also continues at the police department.

Police haven’t confirmed details about the allegations against Charfauros, but DOC officials alleged earlier this month that the police captain helped three other officers visit a suspect in the Blue House case. Charfauros has been temporarily detailed to DOC, but his duties have nothing to do with inmate visits.

Yesterday, defense attorney F. Randall Cunliffe said the complaint against Charfauros was politically motivated and the investigation that followed was just authorities going through the motions.

“I think GPD and the prison have to act on it when it becomes a big public issue,” Cunliffe said. “If it hadn’t been in the news and everything, probably nothing would have ever occurred for it. … But it becomes a big issue, and now they have to undertake it, otherwise the media is going to say that they covered it all up.”

Cunliffe said the case against Charfauros was initiated by a person with a vendetta against the police captain, although he declined to identify that person. Charfauros is a “lightning rod” for political controversy, Cunliffe said.

“(It is) more political bickering at the police department,” Cunliffe said. “The person who brought it to everyone’s attention hates Mark.”

The prisoner visit at the center of this case occurred on Nov. 21 at the Hagåtña Detention Facility. The officers visited with David Manila, another police officer who is accused of assisting the Blue House brothel, where nine women were forced into prostitution between 2004 and 2008. Manila has been charged with kidnapping, rape and other crimes, and is being held on $250,000 cash bail.

According to the visitors’ logbook at the Hagåtña Detention Facility, the three visiting police officers are Eugene Charfauros, Carl Lizama and Joel Terlaje.

During the visit, Mark Charfauros allegedly allowed Manila to use his cell phone, which isn’t permitted under any circumstances, said DOC Director Jose San Agustin. It also is abnormal for police officers to visit an incarcerated suspect after the suspect has been charged in court, said Corrections Officer Jeff Limo, who handles internal affairs investigations at DOC.

On the day of the visit, Mark Charfauros was planning to go to lunch with the three visiting officers, so he invited them into the Hagåtña detention center while he finished up some business, Cunliffe said. Once the officers were inside, they visited briefly with Manila, whom they knew through the police department, Cunliffe said. It is not abnormal for visitors to speak with inmates while passing through the facility, Cunliffe said.

“I say hi to Manila and (other Blue House suspects) all the time when I am in there,” Cunliffe said. “They are in the first cell. … It is impolite (not to.) Somebody says ‘Hey Randy, how you doing?’ and you are just suppose to ignore them?”

In response to the allegation that Charfauros loaned Manila a cell phone, Cunliffe said inmates use cell phones within the detention center “all the time.” Regardless of if this is against DOC rules or not, it is a common occurrence, and Charfauros is being singled out with this allegation, Cunliffe said.

“People use phones all the time in there. They use the land lines. They use paid telephones. … I have had clients call me on guards’ cellphones before.” Cunliffe said.

The Blue House lounge was a Tamuning brothel that masqueraded as a karaoke bar from 2004 to 2008. Brothel owner Song Ja Cha has been sentenced to life in prison in federal court, but now three police officers are accused in local court of assisting the brothel.

Manila — along with officers Mario Laxamana and Anthony Quenga — are expected to go to trial sometime early next year. Manila’s defense attorney, William Pole, has argued that prosecutors have received allegations against about 11 other officers, but have unfairly chosen only to prosecute some.

Manila, Laxamana and Quenga were indicted after a series of Pacific Daily News stories prompted the police department to reopen the Blue House investigation. Blue House victims levied allegations against police officers in 2008, but no officers were arrested for more than four years.

Former AG Moylan to join Blue House case

Former Attorney General Douglas Moylan will join the growing Blue House case.

Moylan, who is now a private practice defense attorney, was assigned to represent Anthony Quenga, a police officer accused of assisting the Blue House brothel.

Moylan was appointed to represent Quenga during a Superior Court of Guam hearing Wednesday. Quenga’s previous attorney, Leevin Camacho, stepped down due to a conflict of interest.

A status hearing is set for Monday to determine if Moylan has any conflicts in the case.

The Blue House lounge was a brothel that masqueraded as a karaoke bar in Tamuning from 2004 to 2008. Brothel owner Song Ja Cha already has been sentenced to life in prison after a trial in federal court, but now three police officers face charges in local court.

Quenga and two other officers — Mario Laxamana and David Manila — were indicted in November. All three officers have been charged with multiple counts of kidnapping, felonious restraint and other crimes. Quenga and Manila also are accused of rape.