More Sex Trafficking Arrests in CNMI

August 18, 2013

The F.B.I. and USDOJ have arrested Richard Sullivan Benavente and Annette Nakatsukasa Basa for sexual exploitation of children and sex trafficking of children. The CNMI Department of Public Safety worked with the federal officials on this case.

The pair is also accused of making pornographic films of children and giving drugs (methamphetamine) to the girls.

According to the criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of the NMI on August 14, 2013, Benevante was arrested for exploitation of children. The complaint filed against Basa charges her with sexual trafficking of children. For five years Benavente exploited children trafficked by Basa, a woman he said he has known for 10 years.

According the complaint filed against Basa, she made the arrangements for Benavente to sexually exploited two female minors. The 15-year-old minors were living with Basa. On one occasion Benavente gave the girls methamphetamine and "engaged in sexual conduct with them" at Basa's residence, according to Basa'a complaint. At another time he picked up both girls and drove them to a Saipan Hotel to engage in sexual encounters which he filmed on a camera using a tripod and with a cellular phone.  The complaint alleges that Benavente paid Basa to exploit the children.

According to the complaint, one minor ran away from her father's house in March 2013 to stay at the other minor's house. Both girls left that house in April 2013 to stay in other places until they moved in with Basa in May 2013.  The complaints states that in May 2013 Basa directed the children to have sex with adult males.

The victims "identified several adult males with whom she engaged in sex acts at the direction of BASA", according to documents filed with the court. Hopefully, the F.B.I. and USDOL are also pursuing the other men who the girls identified.

Benavente has been a CNMI firefighter for 13 years. In the past 10 years numerous employees of the CNMI Department of Public Safety have been arrested with charges ranging from drug use to assault with a dangerous weapon. The DPS is known also for reinstating employees who have been arrested and convicted. In 2003 Richard S. Benavente, a rescue an Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting officer, was arrested for violating a temporary restraining order filed by his former girlfriend. He engaged her in a high speed chase and rammed her car with his.

In 2011, a DPS firefighter, Alan Santos Aguon, who was a person of interest in the case of two missing Saipan children, Faloma Luhk and Maleina Luhk, refused to take a lie detector test before fleeing the islands to Washington state.  Perhaps Basa, an appearingly heartless monster who preys on female minors should also be questioned to see if she has any involvement with Aguon or in the Luhk case.  From the Saipan Tribune:
Alan Santos Aguon, a former DPS firefighter who reportedly refused to undergo a lie detector test in connection with the investigation into the Luhk sisters’ disappearance, was recently arrested in Burien, Washington state for domestic violence. 
DPS investigators at the time refused to name the firefighter, who was only tagged as a “person of interest.” Aguon resigned from DPS last year. Sources said he left Saipan on Aug. 6, 2011, to reunite with his wife and children in Washington state.
Saipan is known internationally for its prostitution and sexual trafficking of women and children. The Benavente-Basa case has been hightlighted on  the Traffic Jam Campaign to Stop Human Trafficking and Slavery's facebook page. In June 2013 Chang Ru Meng Blackman was found guilty of one count of sexual trafficking.  Numerous others have been tried and convicted, yet many cases continue in the shadows or have not been brought to trial.

The U. S Department of State's 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report recognized the CNMI as a destination for human and sexual trafficking. From the report (emphasis added):
CNMI is a destination and transit location for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. During the reporting period, DOI’s Office of Insular Affairs’ Federal Ombudsman’s Office reopened an investigation of a case of fraud in foreign labor contracting from 2009 and identified 10 more human trafficking cases; the victims have filed applications for T nonimmigrant status. Federal authorities charged two men with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and financially benefitting from a sex trafficking venture involving Chinese women; both defendants pleaded guilty and sentencing was pending at the close of the reporting period.
The territory of Guam is a source and transit location for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. During the reporting period, a defendant was sentenced in federal court to life imprisonment on 20 counts, including sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion and sex trafficking of a minor for recruiting and defrauding nine Chuukese women and one girl and forcing them to engage in commercial sex acts. Since 1950, a dual judicial structure has existed in Guam, with an independent local judicial system taking responsibility for cases arising under Guam’s criminal statutes. As a result of the federal sex trafficking investigation, three Guam police officers were charged by local authorities for their involvement in the scheme, and one officer pleaded guilty to felonious restraint and official misconduct.
In May 2013 the U.S. Department of Interior made the unjustified and shameful decision to close down the Office of the Federal Ombudsman, which for 14 years has played a vital role in identifying and assisting victims of sex trafficking. In fact, so successful was the office that in May 2011 the role of the federal ombudsman was expanded to Guam.

At a Saipan women's summit earlier this month, U.S. Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the CNMI, Alicia Limtiaco called on members of the community to assist in stopping human trafficking.

The Saipan Tribune quoted her:
 “If you’re suspicious, or you’re concerned, make that phone call to [authorities],” Limtiaco said as she went over a list of labor and sex trafficking indicators or “red flags.”
In fact, in the arrest of Benavente and Basa resulted from an anonymous person contacting "Crime Stoppers" to supply them with information and a video tape of the sexual encounter showing Benavente with the minor.

U.S. Attorney Alicia Limitiaco issued this statement about the case:
COMPLAINTS FILED IN JOINT INVESTIGATION OF SEX OFFENSES INVOLVING CHILDREN Saipan, MP –  
United States Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands Alicia A.G. Limtiaco, together with Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Attorney General Joey P. San Nicolas, Honolulu Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Vida Bottom, and CNMI Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Deleon Guerrero announced today the filing of federal charges stemming from a joint investigation of sex offenses involving children:
  •  a federal criminal complaint charging ANNETTE NAKATSUKASA BASA with Sex Trafficking of Children. A conviction carries a statutory minimum of at least ten years of imprisonment and up to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. 
  • a federal criminal complaint charging RICHARD SULLIVAN BENAVENTE with Sexual Exploitation of Children. A conviction carries a statutory minimum of fifteen years of imprisonment and up to a maximum sentence of thirty years of imprisonment. 
Defendants BASA and BENAVENTE made their initial appearance today in the U.S. District Court before the Honorable Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona. Detention hearings for both defendants will be held on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 9:00 AM and preliminary hearings will be held on Friday, August 30, 2013, at 9:00 AM, in the U.S. District Court for the NMI.  
 “Protecting our children and community from those who engage in human trafficking and the exploitation of children is a top priority of the Department of Justice,” said U.S. Attorney Limtiaco. 
“This investigation shows the commitment of federal and local law enforcement to work together to investigate and prosecute child exploitation and to rescue and assist victims.”  
The investigation originated with the CNMI Department of Public Safety and was investigated jointly by DPS Criminal Bureau of Investigations and the FBI. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Rami Badawy and Ross Naughton. The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Read the Benavente Complaint:

Read the Basa Complaint:

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

good coverage I'd like to hear from those people that claim that the foreign investors are responsible for NMI's drugs and sex trafficking. Apology please.

Anonymous said...

I don't see any sex trafficking in this story. And as far as exploitation, I don't know if that was or wasn't the case. As Dave Chappelle pointed out, "how old is 15 really?" Some 15 year olds are completely capable of making a prudent decision on who to have sexual intercourse with. On the other hand, some 20 year old women are not remotely capable of making a wise decision on sexual intercourse. In our culture, we give a "high five" to the young male who has sex with an older woman, and automatically victimize the women in similar situations. Although the age of consent is 16 in most states, there is often close in age exception that (for example 4 years difference) that will allow someone 19 to legally have sex with a 15 year old. So in that instance a 19 year old doesn't take advantage of girl, but a 30 year old automatically does.

Wendy Doromal said...

1:12 You don't see sex trafficking? You do not understand that people cannot SELL children for sex?! You are disgusting beyond belief.

Wendy Doromal said...

Oh and no one can sell adults for sex either.

Anonymous said...

Prostitution is legal in many worldwide jurisdictions including part of the U.S. mainland.

As far as trafficking, it doesn't appear that these girls were recruited under false pretenses like the Chuukese girls in Guam, so I don't see the trafficking angle.

I could see if the girls were taken to another country or to a different part of the U.S., but from the complaint, they just went a maximum of 12 miles away, and they should have been able to go home at any time. A 15 year old usually knows what they are doing. Many states automatically treat 15 year olds as adults for certain crimes, but they are automatically treated at the same age as an innocent child victim when it comes to sex. Seems inconsistent.

Anonymous said...

I don't see the trafficking angle either.

Wendy Doromal said...

5:57 Are you actually attempting to justify the illegal actions of people who would exploit children? Do you seriously consider it okay to sexual exploit children?

Read Basa'a complaint -it clearly outlines the elements of sex trafficking of children. The actions of Basa fit the description of selling children for commercial sex.

Anonymous said...

15 year old girls in the CNMI are considered legal - under Chamorro - local laws (this changes from familia to familia). It is sick and twisted for sure. A 16 year old girl is legal under CNMI law except for sodomy which the Catholic church forbids. The token Bishop holds incredible power over sex laws in the CNMI and a Catholic divorce will run you about ten thousand dollars. So there is a year of difference between being prosecuted or not. Most countries in the Middle East under Sharia Law allow girls as young as 9 to be married. Sick and twisted - disgusting.

Young high school girls in the CNMI are routinely sexually used by their relatives and when I say this I mean their blood relatives. This case seems very serious which it is to an outsider but on Saipan this means almost nothing - people are kinda scratching their heads.

Anonymous said...

It is too bad that the Mvariety cannot do news articles that contain actual information such as we get from this site in these types of cases.
Only MV paper and Saipan Trib usually focus on govt. activity with little or no actual info leaving more questions than answers with Saipan Trib leaning more toward the favorable admin at the time and Tan associates.

I wold like to see the parent(s)(or guardian) in this also be prosecuted in these kids case as it seems these kids have been roaming for a while.

BTW, I thought that the age of consent was 14. But as stated in this case this is "sex for hire" weather willful participant or not that would come out in court.

BTW many countries such as the Phil. also have additional laws, (besides the one affecting minors) that prohibit copulation and "co mingling" and other activities between individuals that are more than ten years age difference. Republic Act 1710 (or 171), forgot which one.
This is seldom enforced but is many times used as it carries very sever penalties.

Since this is Fed charges I wonder if there will be anymore charges brought or NMI prosecution?

If this guy (or "mamasan"will "roll" this could be far reaching within the Govt.
Lets see who will quit and also flee before this come to trial.


Anonymous said...

The age of consent under NMI law is 16. These girls were trafficked (sold) which is a felony.

Wendy Doromal said...

For the commenters who "don't see sex trafficking", here is the criteria under federal law as stated in the Complaint filed against Annette Basa:

"The Elements of Sex Trafficking of Children, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1591(a)(l), are:
1 . The defendant knowingly recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided, obtained or maintained a person;
2. That person was less than 18 years old;
3. The defendant knew or was in reckless disregard of the fact that that person was less than 18 years old;
4. The defendant knew or was in reckless disregard of the fact that person would be caused to engage in commercial sex acts; and
5. The defendant’s actions were in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce."

I am going to assume that those who commented that nothing is wrong with selling and filming young girls having sexual encounters with adult men, (and drugging them) have no daughters and no respect for women in general. Some of these comments like those made by 1:12, 5:57, and 8:07 are scary and callous.These girls need counseling and help and the abusers need to understand the extent of their abuse. I know of so many cases of women and girls being sexually exploited in the CNMI and they never received justice. The DPS, FBI and USDOJ did a great job here. Hopefully, they can educate people like the commenters here so that people understand that sexual trafficking and exploitation of children is despicable and illegal.

Anonymous said...

it seems that Basa or Benavente are sharing the pornographic films. The tipster turned over the video, which resulted in the arrest. Isn't circulating porn a crime if that's what happened?

Anonymous said...

In 2010, the Houston Press reported on the Harris County, District Attorney who prosecuted a 13 year old girl for prostitution. The State argued that the girl was “willing to engage in the sex act,” nullifying the age of consent requirement, and thus justifying her conviction. The case was appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, where it was ultimately ruled that the girl could not be charged with prostitution. However, the very fact that such prosecution was plausible points to the lack of legal guidelines as applied to “child prostitution.”

In that case, the prosecutor was saying that this girl wasn't an innocent victim, but a perpetrator of a crime. But had someone unknowingly had sex with the prostitute, she would be a innocent victim again. I'm just saying the laws are inconsistent.

Wendy Doromal said...

That case in Texass just shows how adults can make seriously wrong decisions and come up with flawed defenses. Children need parenting and adults should be guiding and protecting them. If a parent or an adult takes a child to rob a store some idiot can argue that the kid wanted to go along, but ultimately the adults are responsible. Adults should be modeling proper behavior for young people. These girls should have 1. been in the custody of their parents or if not with a responsible adult. ( this also a case of child neglect?) 2. been attending school 3. been respected and protected as children.

As far as prostitution, defend it all you want.Legal prostitution is a far cry from what I have seen in the CNMI where innocent VICTIMS are LOCKED in rooms or shipping containers and taken out to strip against their will or to have unwanted sex with some "men". I KNOW and have helped dozens (YES DOZENS) of trafficked young women forced into prostitution in the CNMI. The ones that I helped NEVER received justice. I have one VIP club list of "men" who "bought" them. Some were high level officials (think governor's office) . I am sure that since so many feel there is nothing wrong with buying unwilling women for sex they will not mind seeing their names in print.

Anonymous said...

A program to educate local people and other members of the community on Sex trafficking, Sexual harassment, human trafficking and human exploitations are URGENTLY needed in CNMI. It is an easy step, “NMC, DPS, FBI and USDOJ can have representatives together to make this a reality”. To Governor Mr. Eloy Inos and CNMI -AGO, “What do you like to say?” To Mr. Angel Demapan, “Do not stay silent”.

Anonymous said...

im so realy shock when i read this colum i know mr richard s benavente ive been here in cnmi for two decade his very good guy i dont know why this happened,i think because of drugs ,why this drug autorities cannot dismantle operation in this island? this is a small island.

Anonymous said...

There are no educational programs to help locals understand the dangers of drugs or sexual exploitation of a minor. Meth runs rampant in the CNMI as do sex offenders.

Sex trafficking and drugs in the CNMI are directly linked. Why do you think there is no drug testing for law enforcement officers or any elected officials. The unofficial number of elected Chamorros and Carolinians on meth is 80%. Even Kilili had a drug problem. Now take into account the Visa waiver program for Russians and Chinese and you can factor in the importation of ingredients to manufacture meth. The Russian mafia and Chinese triads are active in the CNMI with "legit" businesses whose sole purpose is to run gambling, sex trafficking and drugs inside of their business. The Russians can't help it and do it everywhere they go. I hear extortion is the new money maker. Getting through CNMI customs is so easy even a few hundred Russian "tourists" can pass right through with bags of sudafed. Those idiots who work there make less than 17k per year so a $1,200 bribe is a no brainer for them. Educate them ? Most can barely read.

Anonymous said...

And it is attitudes like that that make this so common. Laws like these were designed to protect children from "head scratching" neandrathals!