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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Woman gets nearly 20 years in prison for sex trafficking

The federal court yesterday slapped a prison sentence of 19 years and seven months against Chang Ru Meng Backman, a former karaoke operator convicted of sex trafficking.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona accepted the U.S. government’s recommendation to impose a prison sentence of 235 months.

Manglona remanded Backman to the custody of the U.S. Marshal until a prison facility is designated for her.

Attorney Joaquin Torres, counsel for Backman, recommended 188 months in prison, the lowest end of the sentencing guideline range.

After the hearing, Torres said his recommendation was based on the facts that occurred. “The testimony of the victim was not consistent,” he pointed out.

Torres said there was no evidence that Backman knew that a customer would force, threaten, or coerce the victim to engage in commercial sex. Torres said there was no evidence that Backman was in reckless disregard that force, threat of force, fraud, or coercion would be used against the victim by the customer.

Assistant U.S. attorney Rami S. Badawy stated that the U.S. government is pleased with the judge’s sentence.

“I believe that it sends a strong message that this kind of conduct won’t be tolerated here in the CNMI,” Badawy said.

In his sentencing memorandum, Badawy said the evidence produced at trial revealed the heinous nature of the offense.

Backman, according to Badawy, motivated by greed, preyed upon the special vulnerabilities of the victim, and coerced her to have sex with men night after night, month after month.

Badawy said the defendant treated the victim, a Chinese national, like a reusable community and sold her to customers of her club, for her own financial gain.

“Compelling a person to engage in prostitution is one of the most serious crimes in the criminal code,” he added.

On June 7, 2013, the jurors found Backman guilty of one count of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion, but acquitted her of two counts of the same charges involving two other women.

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