16 Dec 2004

Tongan businessman based in Hawaii found guilty of human trafficking

11:33 am on 16 December 2004

A jury in Honolulu has convicted a Tongan businessman of smuggling Tongan workers to Hawaii and forcing them into involuntary servitude.

52 year old Lueleni Fetongi Maka was found guilty of human trafficking, involuntary servitude, forced labor, alien harboring, alien smuggling and unlawful use of documents.

The crimes carry sentences of up to 20 years.

Maka was accused of luring seven Tongan men to Hawaii with promises of a better life and then forcing them to work for his landscaping businesses, housing them in squalid conditions, and controlling them with beatings and threats of deportation.

Jurors will return to the courtroom tomorrow, when they will be asked to reach factual findings relating to sentencing.