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Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Man pleads guilty
in nude-model
smuggling case

By Pat Gee


The leader of a ring charged with smuggling Japanese nationals into Honolulu to work as nude Internet models has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court.

Akira Sekimoto, a Japanese national, will face sentencing before Judge Helen Gillmor at 1:30 p.m. July 24. Yesterday, he entered a plea agreement that could bring a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $500,000 fine.

Gillmor took a substantial amount of time to make sure Sekimoto, who communicated through an interpreter, understood the charges before him. She questioned him about what he did, when and how he was guilty and also asked if he was forced by anyone to change his plea. Sekimoto replied, "No."

Sekimoto pleaded guilty to conspiring to bring in four Japanese women to work illegally under the U.S. visa-waiver program as models and to laundering money from the operation through bank accounts in Japan and Sweden.

Sekimoto was one of four men arrested in January for conspiracy but is the only one being held without bail

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Omer Poirier, Sekimoto is president of Aloha Data Ltd. but ran the company on behalf of the true owner, Takao Asayama, who is "not a local." Poirier said "we are not sure where he (Asayama) is" and declined to comment on where Asayama is from.

Poirier said he believes the other three suspects, including Shihoko Sakamoto, Sean Nakayama and Takao Ono, will also follow with guilty pleas. A fifth suspect, Naoki Shimada, is still in Japan and has not yet been arraigned, Poirier said.

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