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March 8, 2016Los Angeles, CA, United StatesChild Exploitation

Bay Area registered sex offender convicted of traveling to Cambodia to have sex with young girls

LOS ANGELES – A Bay Area man was convicted Monday afternoon of travelling to Cambodia to engage in illicit sexual conduct with young girls, charges stemming from a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Ronald Gerard Boyajian, 55, who resided in Menlo Park and previously spent time on the Palos Verdes peninsula, was found guilty following a six-week trial of three child exploitation crimes. The federal court jury convicted Boyajian of traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct; engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor in foreign places; and committing these offenses while being required to register as a sex offender.

Boyajian’s sentencing is set for June 13, at which time he will face a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for each of the two travel offenses and a mandatory consecutive 10-year term for committing these offenses while being required by California law to register as a sex offender. Because two of his convictions carry potential sentence-doubling provisions, Boyajian’s total sentencing exposure is 130 years in federal custody.

Boyajian was arrested by the Cambodian National Police (CNP) in February 2009 while he was on his 35th trip to Asia over a nine-year period. Boyajian began traveling to Cambodia shortly after completing his parole following convictions for illegal sex with a minor and oral sex with a minor in 1994.

“The evidence presented at trial showed that Boyajian thought that he could molest and intimidate his young victims with impunity because he was in a foreign country, but he could not have been more mistaken,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Protecting children from sexual exploitation is one of our top priorities, and we will pursue pedophiles across the globe if necessary. I also salute the courage of his victims who were willing to come to the United States to be witnesses at the trial and testify against him.”

Federal prosecutors presented evidence the defendant sexually assaulted girls who were between 8 and 11 when Boyajian attacked them. One victim, who was approximately 8 when she was molested, testified at the trial that “he was abusive…cruel - he treated me like I wasn’t even human.”

Boyajian paid pimps and sometimes relatives from impoverished families to have access to his victims, which he preferred to weigh less than 70 pounds. While the attacks took place in the village of Svay Pak – which is known as Kilo 11 because it is located 11 kilometers outside of Phnom Penh – the victims were Vietnamese immigrants who lived in the poor community. A CNP anti-human trafficking officer testified at trial that Svay Pak was well known as a place where foreigners went to have sexual contact with females, often young girls. Boyajian went to Svay Pak to have “unlimited access to young girls for sex,” prosecutors said in court.

“For the young victims robbed of their childhood and innocence by this defendant, justice has been a long time coming, but they can take consolation knowing he will now be made to pay for his crimes,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge of HSI Los Angeles. “I applaud the efforts by the HSI special agents here and overseas, who, along with the federal prosecutors, have fought tirelessly to vindicate the rights of these child victims. This verdict should send a clear and resounding message that traveling overseas to exploit children will not go unnoticed or unpunished.”

The guilty verdict in the Boyajian case follows convictions and lengthy sentences imposed on other sex tourists who were prosecuted in Los Angeles, including Michael Joseph Pepe, who was sentenced to 210 years in federal prison after being convicted of abusing seven victims in Cambodia, and Stanley Dan Reczko, who received a mandatory life-without-parole sentence for producing child pornography with a minor victim in the Philippines.

The case against Boyajian is the result of an investigation by HSI special agents in Los Angeles and HSI’s Attaché Offices in Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh, with the assistance of the United States Embassy in Phnom Penh.

This investigation was conducted under HSI’s Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 12,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2014, more than 2,300 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.