Sex Trafficking CNMI



















July 11, 2010

The story of the Club Jama dancers is all too familiar. For decades there has been a pattern of trafficking young Filipina and other Asian women to be sexually exploited in CNMI clubs, bars and massage parlors.

In December 2007 Club Jama was raided after one of the dancers called the Philippine Consulate to report false imprisonment, unpaid overtime wages and illegal deductions.

Ten of the former Club Jama dancers have sued Chanpac, Inc. known as Club Jama, owners "Jack" Ernest Strange and Thelma Strange who currently live in Tennessee, and DOES I-X. The complaint filed in February 2009 alleges that the unnamed Defendants in the complaint (DOES I-X) are alter egos, joint employers, and/or integrated enterprises of Defendants.  The defendants were sued for failing to pay the employees their full compensation and for breach of contract.

The women's declarations reveal that they were recruited from the Philippine's by Mrs. Stange's neice, Margie, and later brought to locations in the Philippines to be interviewed by the Strange couple where they were forced to strip naked as part of the "audition"  to checks for "scars or tattoos." The women were told that they would not dance naked in the CNMI, but upon their arrival they learned differently.

Declarations reveal that the women were told that they would dance with "a sash and undergarments."
Another declaration stated, "She said the job would be for a dancer, but not all the way, we would only do variety show."

Yet one declaration revealed:
On the third night of training we were brought to the club to observe. I was shocked. It was not the kind of job I was expecting to do. I thought I applied for a variety dancer job like the ones you see on noon times shows in the Philippines. I was not able to sleep that night because I need to go to work the next day and that I had to do strip tease in front of the customers.
The Strange couple enforced odd penalties on the dancers that meant that they could not meet quotas: "$5.00 if you removed your clothing late; if you forgot to close the dressing room door -$5.00; if you forgot to clap your hands after every performance -$5.00; if you make noise walking to the barracks -$5.00; if you go to the club with wet hair -$5.00; not wearing red lipstick -$5.00."

The declarations revealed that some of the women were underage, and were told to process "fake" birth certificates.  One plaintiff was instructed to use a fake name on her passport, birth certificate, police clearance and medical certificate.  The women were told to enter the CNMI as tourists, not as dancers.

The declarations state the typical schemes used on club girls including seizure of passports, deduction from wages for travel, recruitment and other bogus fees, quotas for lady's drinks, restrictions to barracks, and other ill-treatment.

When the women arrived in the CNMI they were video-taped naked and told to say that "they liked to dance naked," liked to do their job" and "no one forced them to do their job."  Later, the Stranges warned the dancers that if they went to authorities or complained then the video tapes would be sent to their families in the Philippines.

The women's declarations reveal that, like other sleazy CNMI clubs, girls were allowed to call "good paying customers" to invite them to the club.  I remember that a "V.I.P. list" from another club contained names of men who were "good customers" including the name of one former lt. governor.

The Plaintiff's Opposition to the Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment reveals a sickening story of how the Stranges controlled every activity and move of the employees from what time they woke, slept, ate and exercised. They also controlled where they could go and one declaration stated that even throwing out garbage required permission from a waitress to accompany a dancer and unlock the door.

 The women were forced to do aerobics every day to maintain their weight, and one dancer had her food intake monitored and was told to drink "slimming tea" because she was "fat."

The defendants claimed that their business did not meet the dollar volume requirement of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of $500,000 per year. The defendant's claimed $499,841 in revenue for  2005 and $472,586 in  revenue for 2006. However, the plaintiffs' attorney pointed out that the employers keep all of the waitresses tips and contend that not all revenue and tips were represented on the Business Gross Tax Return.

The women were human trafficking victims who applied for and were awarded U.S. T-visas.  They state that they are owed tens of thousands of dollars in back pay.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

"On the third night of training we were brought to the club to observe. I was shocked. It was not the kind of job I was expecting to do. I thought I applied for a variety dancer job like the ones you see on noon times shows in the Philippines. I was not able to sleep that night because I need to go to work the next day and that I had to do strip tease in front of the customers."

Yeah, right. A variety dancer job like the ones you see on noon time shows? She auditioned in the PI, if she felt uncomfortable she should have left immediately. Is she a child or grown person? I've seen those noon shows in Manila, let me tell they aren't as innocent as she says.
Sounds like she wants some money.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 11:37

What makes a person (you) attack the trafficking victim who is lied to, cheated, demeaned and held prisoner in a club rather than the sleazy, money-grabbing, no ethics, immoral criminal traffickers and club owners? What? Are you a defense attorney, a club goer trying to justify the exploitation of the women, or truly ignorant and trying to make excuses for some truly despicable creeps? What "noon shows" have you watched? They are family variety shows. No wonder trafficking is such a horrible problem -people actually make excuses for it. Sick!

Anonymous said...

Why didn't the US AGO file charges against these club owners for traffickng?

Anonymous said...

Noni 11:37

Of course she wants some money. She wants her money! She was not paid for all the hours she worked.

Anonymous said...

It is easier to prove a civil case by a preponderance of the evidence than a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Also, something may not violate criminal laws but be a grievous abuse of workers' rights. That place had a "secret room" for special "private entertainment" with a reclining chair.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 11:37

I forgot something. You asked, "Is she a child or grown person? "

Yes, some of the victims were minors, not adults,

Anonymous said...

I wonder how Atty. Thompson will prove that the business made over $500k and can proceed in federal court. If he is unsuccessful in that burden, the case will have to proceed at the CNMI department of labor, and I wish him good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

What is the case number in the District Court of the Northern Mariana Islands?

Wendy said...

Case 1:09-cv-0004

Anonymous said...

Commenting 11:37 AON and Wendys comment. You are both right.
Having gone to the PI more times than I can count before marrying a Filipina, I can say that 1) The girls probably heard what they wanted to here. Working in the PI is tough and, let's face it, the abuses you face on Saipan are probably not worse than what you get there. 2) They were probably lied too.
All in all I would say that if you took 100 girls at least two thirds knew to a high degree, if not exactly, what they were getting into. Sorry, you are not going to convince me any differenly. Another 20 or so probably did not expect "how hot the fire would get" so yes, they under estimated the situation. The rest, about 1 in 4, probably were naive about the situation and signed up thinking this would be a great deal.
In any event, I am not condoning what these employeers did and I am not blaming the girls. It's just when you play with fire... well, you know. Note: That sign with the girls on your heading has been down for over a year, but they did keep it up nearly two years after the club shut down. Also, you don't see the "Club Jama" or anything like that advertised on Saipan anymore. Maybe the Tinian Dynsasty still features it's "Club Girls", but I would figure that all of them in the pictures have moved by now.
And don't forget, how many of these girls get married to locals. My wife's dream was marrying a American. I agree that some of these dreams can become nightmares, but not for all of them. Again, I can't condone abuses and there should be prosecutions (with this AG, good look having that happen with any speed).

Anonymous said...

Maybe new U.S. Attorney Alicia G. Limtiaco can work on getting adequate federal resources to combat this scourge.

Ultimately, the CNMI needs its own U.S. Attorney, U.S. Marshal, and far more federal law enforcement special agents permanently stationed here.

Our Delegate to Congress should be stepping up to the plate on these issues, too.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 9:25

I agree with you that the CNMI does need it own US AG and more federal law enforcement officials. I have lobbied for that since 1994.

Anonymous said...

I've personally had drinks with DHS, FBI and DOI people at Club Jama. Lap dances, drinks, lady's drinks, you name it.

Spin that Wendy.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 5:24

Why would I "spin" that? The women who work or have worked in CNMI clubs talk about the customers who are often sleazy abusers, and some were officials of local and federal law enforcement agencies and some were elected officials.

You continually post snarky comments from Valdez, Alaska. What's your point? That you liked Club Jama and went there with your friends because you enjoy and support places that exploit women?

Anonymous said...

Wendy,

There was a minor, trafficked girl that eventually testified before Congress. She was, I think, called "Katrina".

Was there any truth that a former very high elected official and judicial official, who is now a candidate for delegate, had his name and telephone number on Katrina's VIP list?

May mean nothing but still, how would "Katrina" have his name as her customer? How could we send someone to Washington when this candidate supposedly was the VIP customer of a minor, trafficked minor?

Wendy said...

Anonymous 7:01

Yes, it is true. I have the list with the names and the telephone numbers. The "Guest List" was used by all of the club employees to increase business. Club Kalesa in Chalan Kanoa was a particularly sleazy club.

The list contains names of the club's "best customers", which means those who frequented the club regularly, dumped a lot for ladies drinks and/or those who "took the girls out." Of course, we do not know for sure why each person made the list.

When I got the list, we went through a Saipan phone book and/or called every number on the list to verify and identify the names. Many of the numbers are government offices! Some names (some are first only and most are both first and last names) have two numbers -one home and one office.

After you posted this comment, I pulled out the list and I see that there are quite a few former and present elected officials or department heads listed. I mean A LOT. The list is two pages and two columns. Some have the name and then a hyphen with the agency like CUC. It is very neatly hand printed and in alphabetical order.

I seriously do not understand how people vote and of course, I don't live there so I can't vote. I just assume that many people must vote more by the family and political connections or promises of jobs, and less by the character of a candidate. I cannot believe some of the people that get elected in the CNMI and in the mainland.

Mr. Monagaha said...

I thyink there is only two erotic strip clubs operating in Saipan, and all thegirls there are experienced "pros" according to everyone. The Clubs are Kings in the Promenade and Chicago just north of DFS on Beach Rd.

The clubs rstricting girls are Komodos clubs, including Mermaids, Micronesian, and Happiness, all in the Garapan Pomenade near the police station. They have long been guilty of restricting girls and operating a clip joint.

The other clubs are small kimchi type of small clubs, mostly Chinese girls that are illegal pros working 30. short time and 60. lng time, not let overs of the garment industry, mor like left overs of CNMI immigration.

The only filipino girls doing buy me drinky are at the Kimchi Cabana, the Governors hang out.

Notice of Electronic Filing said...

The following transaction was entered by Long, G. Anthony on 7/15/2010 at 9:25 PM GMT+10 and filed on 7/15/2010
Case Name: Albuna et al v. Chanpac Inc. et al
Case Number: 1:09-cv-4
Filer: Chanpac Inc.
Document Number: 55

Docket Text:
REPLY to Response to Motion re [43] Opposition to Motion, filed by Chanpac Inc.. (Long, G. Anthony)

Anonymous said...

Good luck collecting!

Wendy said...

Anonymous 1:40

I assume your remark is sarcasm, made because the CNMI DoL and AG have routinely, and for decades, issued only meaningless judgments ordering businesses to pay back wages, while failing to enforce them. This is a civil court case though, so maybe they have a better chance of collecting.

Except for some successful cases filed by the US DoL and US DoJ, it seems that in most cases like this the unscrupulous owners, with the help of their highly paid attorneys, just pack their bags, leave the CNMI and slam the door to leave their victims hanging. So sadly, maybe you are correct. While the Strange couple walks away from their mess and the lives that they destroyed to settle back in Tennessee, will they ever actually pay the money that they own the women who were trafficked and cheated? I hope they are forced to.

Notice of Electronic Filing said...

The following transaction was entered on 7/22/2010 at 11:35 AM GMT+10 and filed on 7/22/2010
Case Name: Albuna et al v. Chanpac Inc. et al
Case Number: 1:09-cv-4
Filer:
Document Number: 56

Docket Text:
ORDER granting in part and denying in part [40] Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Robert J. Bryan on 7/22/10.

Notice of Electronic Filing said...

The following transaction was entered by Long, G. Anthony on 8/12/2010 at 11:55 AM GMT+10 and filed on 8/12/2010
Case Name: Albuna et al v. Chanpac Inc. et al
Case Number: 1:09-cv-4
Filer: Chanpac Inc.
Document Number: 58

Docket Text:
MOTION for Summary Judgment by Defendant Chanpac Inc. Responses due by 8/26/2010

Anonymous said...

“The legislative branch has the power to decide whether it is more important perhaps to destroy a prosecution than to hold back testimony they need. They make that decision. It is not a judicial decision, or a legal decision, but a political decision of the highest importance.” Lawrence E. Walsh, “The Independent Counsel and the Separation of Powers,” 25 Hous. L. Rev. 1, 9 (1988).

That is what unfortunately happened in the Katrina case. Congressman George Miller -- encouraged, perhaps, by well-meaning activists -- had Katrina transported from Saipan to testify before his committee in Washington, D.C.

That testimony was inconsistent with statements she had given to the FBI, and under the Brady case and other precedent, transcripts would have to be provided to defense counsel. As she was the primary witness, no alternative remained but to dismiss the case.

This is a perfect example of the paradigm of unintended consequences, and of elevating political needs or desired legislation above the Rule of Law.

The same could also be said of minimum wage and immigration federalization before a GAO economic study. The terrible and wholly predictible adverse consequences on guest workers and CNMI citizens are an ongoing calamity, a tribute, monument, or lighthouse to the triumph of politics and misguided idealism over rational analysis and discourse.

At least Katrina was “adopted,” welcomed, and cared for by an activist member of the press in Oahu, and graduated from high school. So some good did come out of the fiasco, but not as much as if her abuser had been convicted and spent time in a federal penitentiary.

As for collecting damages in civil lawsuits (or the CNMI OAG or anyone else wasting time trying to collect), most of the perpetrators are judgment-proof. There is no money there.

I'd say you would be better off going after Congressional reparations, but I think immigration status is a higher priority.