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Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Accused Internet
nude-model leader to
be arraigned here

By Debra Barayuga

The alleged mastermind of a ring that smuggled women from Japan to the United States to work as nude Internet models is expected to be brought to Hawaii next week for arraignment.

Takao Asayama, owner of Aloha Data Ltd., was arrested recently in California on a federal complaint charging him with conspiracy to bring in Japanese women to work here illegally, according to federal prosecutors.

Asayama is the fifth individual to be charged in the ring operating in a Kamehameha Heights residence and busted in January.

Asayama's role was discussed yesterday at the sentencing of Akira Sekimoto, who organized the Honolulu arm of the business. Sekimoto pleaded guilty in April to a charge of conspiracy and for laundering money from the business to foreign banks.

U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor sentenced Sekimoto yesterday to 28 months in federal prison on each of the charges and three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay a $3,000 fine within 60 days of his release from prison.

Gillmor said the sentence was appropriate given the cooperation Sekimoto has provided federal prosecutors.

William Harrison, Sekimoto's attorney, said his client came forward early, took responsibility for his actions and provided all the information he knows about the matter.

Sekimoto apologized to the United States for his actions and the trouble he has caused. He said he tried to operate his business legally when he first started it.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Omer Poirier said the government wanted to give credit to Sekimoto for his help in identifying Asayama but the cooperation wasn't enough that it would guarantee a conviction when Asayama is brought to trial.

Sekimoto may be called on later to provide testimony to federal prosecutors when Asayama goes to trial.

Three other men arrested with Sekimoto pleaded guilty to similar charges. Shihoko Sakamoto, Sean Nakayama and Takao Ono have yet to be sentenced.

The four models who were brought to Hawaii have since pleaded guilty to using false information to enter the United States, a petty misdemeanor. Each were fined $40 and sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation. The women returned to Japan soon after their sentencing.

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