LOS ANGELES - The first three defendants charged under an international law enforcement initiative targeting Americans who travel to Cambodia to sexually exploit children were formally indicted by a federal grand jury today.
The men are accused of international travel and engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minors, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison for each count. The defendants, who have been in custody here since their removal from Cambodia two weeks ago, are scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 21.
"As these indictments make clear, U. S. citizens who travel abroad to molest children will find no haven from prosecution," said the acting U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California George S. Cardona. "It is a violation of federal law for U. S. citizens to go to another country and molest children, and violators of this law will be prosecuted."
The charges against the men are the result of Operation Twisted Traveler, an ongoing effort by ICE and the Department of Justice to identify and prosecute "sex tourists" who travel to Cambodia to engage in illicit sex with children. The initiative also involves substantial assistance from the Department of State, the Cambodian National Police and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
"Protecting children both here and abroad from sexual predators has been and will continue to be a top priority for ICE," said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistant Secretary for ICE John Morton. "We will not allow pedophiles to use foreign shores as safe havens."
The three men indicted today, all of whom were previously convicted of sex offenses in the United States, include:
- Ronald Gerard Boyajian, 49, of Menlo Park, Calif., has been indicted on one count for traveling to Cambodia and engaging in sexual activity with a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl.
- Erik Leonardus Peeters, 41, of Norwalk, Calif., is named in a three-count indictment accusing him of engaging in sexual activity with three Cambodian boys.
- Jack Louis Sporich, 75, formerly of Santa Monica, Calif., and now a resident of Sedona, Ariz., is charged with three counts for allegedly having illicit sexual contact with three underage male victims following his arrival in Cambodia in November 2008.
The Twisted Traveler cases are the result of information provided to ICE by investigators for Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), an 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 defendants 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.