It’s one of the most horrific crimes imaginable: The sexual exploitation of children. In recent years, many sex offenders have sought to cover their tracks by traveling overseas, where they hope to conduct their criminal activities far from the reach of U.S. law enforcement.
Today we’re sending a message that they won’t get away with it.
I’m in Los Angeles, where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Justice announced that three U.S. citizens, all previously convicted sex offenders, are being returned from Cambodia to the United States, where they will face federal charges for child sex tourism.
Under Operation Twisted Traveler, which launched in February, ICE is working closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the FBI and our law enforcement counterparts in Cambodia to identify and arrest Americans engaging in child sex tourism in that Southeast Asia country.
Today’s arrests and charges are the direct result of an extraordinary cooperation between ICE, the Cambodian National Police, the Department of State, and the non-governmental organizations who work in Cambodia to identify suspected sex tourists and rescue victims. Offering vital contributions to the effort are Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), the International Justice Mission, and HAGAR International, three non-governmental organizations that shared valuable information to facilitate these arrests.
The three individuals named today are all alleged to have molested or raped children, some as young as 9 years old, in Cambodia. All have previous records of crimes against children. One of the suspects, a 75-year-old man, is reported to have ridden a motor scooter through the streets of the city of Siem Riep, dropping money behind him as a way to entice children, according to witness reports.
Combating the sexual exploitation of minors has been a leading priority for ICE under Operation Predator. Under this long-running initiative, we’ve arrested more than 11,000 sex offenders—including more than 1,100 outside the United States. Thanks to tougher laws against child sex tourism, we have the tools to target those offenders who travel abroad in the effort to evade capture by law enforcement.
There might have been a time when it was easier for predators to hide their crimes by crossing borders. ICE is leading the effort to ensure that child sex tourism becomes an issue of the past.
John Morton is the Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement