Americans accused of being ‘twisted travelers’ return home to face charges
LOS ANGELES—Three American tourists accused of going to Cambodia to have sex with kids have been hauled back to the U.S.
The three are the first defendants to be charged under an international law enforcement initiative targeting Americans who travel to Cambodia to sexually exploit children.
The charges against the three men are the result of Operation “Twisted Traveler,” an ongoing effort by the Department of Justice and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify and prosecute “sex tourists” who travel to Cambodia to engage in illicit sex with children.
The defendants were to be greeted at LAX by ICE agents on Monday.
The three men, who are named in separate criminal complaints filed earlier this year in United States District Court, are expected to make their initial appearances in federal court Tuesday afternoon.
Prior to their return to the United States, the men were arrested and detained by Cambodian authorities on charges related to child sexual exploitation.
At a news conference Monday morning, U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien and Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE, John Morton, announced the three cases and promised further enforcement actions focusing on Americans who sexually exploit children in Cambodia and other countries.
“The men charged in this investigation apparently thought they could pursue their abhorrent desires by leaving the United States to prey on children in another country, but they were sadly mistaken,” said O’Brien. “We are now working closer than ever with officials in other nations and concerned private parties to take every effort we can to identify and prosecute sex tourists, as well as to provide every protection we can to the world’s children.”
Morton stated: “Sexual predators cannot escape justice simply by traveling overseas to exploit, violate and abuse children.”
The Twisted Traveler cases are the result of information provided to ICE by investigators for Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), a non-governmental organization (NGO) established to combat child sexual exploitation, and International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.
The three defendants scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles this afternoon are:
Ronald Gerard Boyajian, 49, of Menlo Park, California, who was arrested by the Cambodian National Police (CNP) in February. According to an affidavit by an ICE agent, Boyajian most recently traveled to Cambodia a year ago, where he allegedly engaged in sexual activity with a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl in an area outside Phnom Penh frequented by child sex tourists known as “Kilo 11.”
Erik Leonardus Peeters, 41, of Norwalk, California, who was taken into custody by the CNP in late February. The criminal complaint accuses Peeters of engaging in sexual activity with at least three Cambodian boys.
The affidavit in the case states that Peeters, who arrived in Cambodia in May 2008, paid the minors $5 to $10 for sex.
Jack Louis Sporich, 75, formerly of Santa Monica, California and now a resident of Sedona, Arizona, who was arrested by the CNP in February.
According to the criminal complaint, Sporich sexually abused at least one underage Cambodian boy after he arrived there in November 2008.
According to the case affidavit, witnesses interviewed by APLE stated that Sporich often drove his motor bike through the streets of the city of Siem Riep, dropping Cambodian currency as a way to attract children.
The three men are charged under the PROTECT Act, which went into effect six years ago and substantially strengthened the federal laws related to predatory crimes involving children outside the United States by adding new crimes and increasing sentences.
Boyajian, Peeters and Sporich each are charged with international travel and engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minors, a charge that carries a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison.