LOS ANGELES (AP) - Three men expelled from Cambodia are facing charges in the U.S. as part of a crackdown on Americans who travel overseas to have sex with children, authorities said Monday.
The three previously convicted sex offenders were the first to be charged under "Operation Twisted Traveler," an initiative targeting problems in Cambodia, which authorities described as ground zero for the crimes.
"Let their arrests serve as notice to any other person who might be tempted to evade justice by victimizing children outside of this country," said John Morton, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "Boarding a plane to a foreign land is no protection."
Ronald Boyajian, Erik Peeters and Jack Sporich were expected to arrive in Los Angeles later Monday escorted by U.S. authorities after being arrested in February by Cambodian police.
The three suspects were named in separate criminal complaints filed in April and May related to child sexual exploitation. They are expected to appear in court Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if the men have lawyers in the U.S.
ICE has stationed an agent in Cambodia full-time for at least a year to focus in large part on such cases.
Boyajian, 49, of Menlo Park, is accused of traveling to Cambodia in September 2008 and paying a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl to perform sex acts.
Peeters, 41, of Norwalk, engaged in sex acts with at least three Cambodian boys, authorities said. He gave their parents money and rice, and paid two of the boys between $5 and $10, the criminal complaint said.
Sporich, 75, of Sedona, Ariz., sexually abused at least one Cambodian boy, authorities said. Witnesses claim Sporich drove his motor bike through the streets of Siem Riep, dropping Cambodian currency to attract children.
Several boys stayed at the home, which had a swimming pool, water slide, video games, toys and clothing, authorities said.
All three men were charged under the Protect Act, which became law in 2003 and made it easier for U.S. authorities to prosecute people for overseas sex crimes. ICE has made more than 70 arrests under the act in countries including Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines, officials said.
Authorities wanted to bring the men back to the U.S. because they could face sentences of up to 30 years for each alleged victim, if convicted, said U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien.
"We believe that the sentences that they're going to be facing, should they be convicted in U.S. custody, are going to be severely stronger sentences," he said.
Jeffrey Blom, vice president of investigations for the rights group International Justice Mission, said he would rather see accused sex offenders face charges in this country, where the justice system is tougher.
Federal authorities in California have tried to crack down on U.S. citizens seeking sex overseas. Retired Marine captain Michael Joseph Pepe awaits sentencing for having sex with preteen girls while working as a teacher in Cambodia.
Some of the girls testified at his trial that Pepe drugged, bound, beat and raped them.
Associated Press Writer Greg Risling contributed to this report
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
Love explosions? Science? How about Mythbusters?? The Fleet Science Center has the perfect new exhibit for you.
Authorities are on scene of a fatal accident at Balboa and Mount Abernathy. This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.
The USNS Mercy hospital ship set sail from San Diego Friday morning for an international humanitarian mission in Asia.
A search is underway in Carlsbad after a boat washed ashore with bundles of drugs found floating in the water nearby.
A woman was killed early Friday morning on a Solana Beach freeway after apparently fleeing on foot from the site of a crash, authorities said.
San Diego State University senior forward Malik Pope allegedly received an improper loan from a sports agency sometime before Dec. 31, 2015, according to a report today citing documents filed by federal prosecutors in a nationwide college basketball corruption case.
The three-day California Democratic Party State Convention begins Friday at the San Diego Convention Center with a series of caucus meetings, workshops and panel discussions.
As the gun debate rages on, Democratic Congressman, Scott Peters, announced Friday that he will be sharing letters he has received from San Diegans who are pleading for Congress to address the country’s gun epidemic.
Light and scattered showers are possible early Friday in parts of San Diego County though the clouds are expected to clear up and sunny skies should prevail by the afternoon.