Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Short-Cuts" - Obstruction of Justice

Obstruction of justice, perjury, and false statements prove particularly easy charges for the government when the conduct would require extensive investigation prior to indictment. I often call them the government "short-cut" offenses.  So it is no surprise to see the government using them extensively. 

A press release of the DOJ reports that:

"Iona Uiagalelei, former Assistant Chief of the Department of Property Management for the American Samoan government, was sentenced Monday, Jan. 7, 2008, in federal court in Hawaii for obstructing a federal sex trafficking investigation. In August 2007, Uiagalelei pleaded guilty to witness tampering for instructing two Chinese women to provide false and misleading information to a federal grand jury, the federal prosecutor, and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.

Uiagalelei was a business partner with Chinese national Fu Sheng Kuo, who, along with several co-defendants, operated a scheme to recruit and import Chinese women and hold them in prostitution in nightclubs and brothels in American Samoa.  Upon arrival, the victims, who were unpaid, were denied access to their passports and return airline tickets, and the opportunity to leave until they had paid off increasing debts. Uiagalelei sponsored numerous Chinese nationals to enter and reside in American Samoa who then engaged in Kuo’s prostitution business.

Uiagalelei was sentenced to 13 months imprisonment and three years of supervised leave. Uiagalelei reports to federal prison Monday, Jan. 14, 2008. Four other defendants in this case have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced."

What might normally not be considered a white collar offense can become one when you use charges such as obstruction and witness tampering.  The question becomes where these cases fall with respect to government statistics.


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Obstruction of Justice was used recently as clarifying language with reference to the Senate hearings on the FINRA regulatory environment following the testimony of its former head - and that was publicized on TV recently.

Despite the prosecutors use of the term to identify certain acts, it might be helpful for the public to understand the phrase better in order to use the same criteria in commercial disputes in order to bring to the attention of authorities the kinds of conduct that falls into that category, and that alerts people to current or on-going crimes for which, in theory, there is a judicial remedy if not also a prosecutor remedy.

Posted by: Pat | Aug 22, 2009 7:34:23 AM

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