HONOLULU - A Hawaii man accused of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor after traveling to Cambodia made his initial appearance in federal court today on charges stemming from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Richard David Mitchell, 61, of Kamuela, Hawaii, is charged in a criminal complaint filed late last month in U. S. District Court in Honolulu. According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, witnesses reported seeing Mitchell engaging in sex acts with a 12-year-old girl in August 2008 at a curbside in Cambodia.
Mitchell was initially arrested in August 2008 by the Cambodian National Police on local charges related to the same incident. He remained in the custody of Cambodian authorities until his removal to Hawaii. The defendant returned to Hawaii Saturday following his formal removal from Cambodia. Upon his arrival at Honolulu International Airport, he was taken into custody by ICE agents. At today's hearing, U. S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren ordered Mitchell held without bond pending a detention hearing.
Federal law prohibits U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens from traveling to foreign countries and engaging in sexual acts with individuals under 16, if those acts would have been prohibited under U.S. law, or with individuals under 18, if the acts were commercial. The PROTECT Act, which went into effect six years ago, substantially strengthened the federal laws related to predatory crimes involving children outside the United States by adding new crimes and increasing sentences.
"Our federal laws seek to protect children in other countries who are preyed upon by sexual predators from the United States," said U. S. Attorney Edward H. Kubo, Jr. "Anyone who travels to another country to sexually abuse a child should expect aggressive prosecution in the United States and a long prison sentence."
The charges against Mitchell are part of stepped up efforts by ICE and the Department of Justice to identify and prosecute "sex tourists" who travel to Cambodia to engage in sex acts with children.
"Child sex tourism is a scourge: adults preying on the young and vulnerable to satisfy their dark sexual desires," said Wayne Wills, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Hawaii. "There can be no place for the abuse of foreign children by our citizens. ICE will do everything in its power to vindicate the rights of those children, no matter how destitute they are or how far they live from our shores."
Mitchell is the fourth American arrested by ICE in the past week for sexually exploiting minors in Cambodia. On August 31, three West Coast men were taken into custody by ICE at Los Angeles International Airport following their removal from Cambodia. Authorities say the four cases are the direct result of the unprecedented cooperation among U.S. authorities, the Cambodian government and non-governmental organizations to target American child sex tourists in Cambodia.
"These prosecutions clearly demonstrate to the Cambodian people that the United States will not tolerate this type of abuse," said Carol Rodley, the U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia. "Not only do these cases signal to the Cambodian victims our commitment to justice, but they also act as a powerful deterrent for those individuals who are contemplating traveling to Cambodia to engage in illegal sexual activity with minors."
If convicted of the charge in the complaint, Mitchell faces up to 30 years in prison. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U. S. Attorney Amy Olson and Trial Attorney Anitha Ibrahim from the Department of Justice, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.