Operation Twisted Traveler Nets 3 'Sex Tourists'

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By Caleb Groos on August 31, 2009 3:36 PM

Three California men have been arrested and removed from Cambodia for alleged sexual exploitation of Cambodian children. Their arrests represent the fruit of increased efforts to crack down on Americans travelling abroad to exploit children.

According to the Department of Justice, the three are currently in transit back to the US, after being arrested and removed from Cambodia. They will be the first to be charged as a result of Operation Twisted Traveler.

Through Operation Twisted Traveler, the DOJ and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials seek to stamp out the child sex tourism flowing from the US to Cambodia. As part of the operation, ICE and FBI investigators conduct training for Cambodian law enforcement, along with non-profit groups trying to battle the child sex tourism trade in Cambodia.

These three will be charged for violating the PROTECT Act. Congress passed the PROTECT Act in 2003. One way it increased the protection of children from sexual abuse was by beefing up penalties for Americans who travel abroad in order to sexually exploit children.

Under the PROTECT Act, travelling abroad with the purpose of engaging in "illicit sexual conduct," is a crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison. If the perpetrator has a prior conviction for a sex crime against a minor, they face life in prison.

Under the PROTECT Act, "illicit sex conduct" includes

  • paid sexual conduct with anyone under 18;
  • sexual conduct forced on someone under 18 through force, threat, drugs or other means;
  • sexual conduct with anyone under 12; and
  • sexual conduct with someone between 12 and 16 when the perpetrator is more than 4 years older.

All three men charged today, Ronald Gerard Boyajian, Erik Leonardus Peeters and Jack Louis Sporich have been charged with traveling to Cambodia and engaging in sex acts with children.