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August 1, 2016Los Angeles, CA, United StatesChild Exploitation

California man sentenced to 70 years in federal prison for traveling to Cambodia to engage in illicit sex with young girls

LOS ANGELES – A California man who was found guilty at trial of traveling to Cambodia to have illicit sexual conduct with young girls was sentenced today to 70 years in federal prison and $40,000 restitution to a victim.

Ronald Gerard Boyajian, 55, who previously resided in Menlo Park and has spent time on the Palos Verdes peninsula, was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder. The case is the result of a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Los Angeles and HSI's Attaché Offices in Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh, with the assistance of the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh.

At Monday's hearing, Judge Snyder observed that "the conduct was extremely serious." In imposing the maximum sentence, the court stated that it is "obvious that the reason for the sentence is for the protection of the public and to deter such behavior in the future."   

Following a six-week trial earlier this year, Boyajian was found guilty of three child exploitation crimes – traveling to Cambodia with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a 9-year-old girl in Cambodia, and committing these offenses while being required to register as a sex offender under California law.

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 on 22 counts of illegal sex with a minor and oral sex with a minor in 1995.

"Pedophiles will not escape punishment by crossing international borders to sexually assault children," said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. "After being convicted of sexually exploiting two children here in California, this defendant tried to evade justice by traveling to Cambodia to victimize even younger children. As today's sentence demonstrates, however, if you travel anywhere in the world for sex with children, the U.S. Department of Justice will be tenacious in prosecuting you and pursuing justice for the young victims of this hideous crime."

Four victims whom Boyajian had sexually assaulted testified against him at trial. Each girl was between 8 and 11 years old when Boyajian purchased them from their mother and grandmothers to sexually abuse them. One victim, who was approximately 8 when Boyajian assaulted her, testified at trial that "he was abusive, he was cruel, he treated me like I wasn't even human."

At a hearing last week, the four testifying victims appeared before Judge Snyder. The youngest victim, who is now approximately 16, asked for a strong sentence: "I would like the court not to allow him to leave prison because there are possibly other children out there who could be harmed, just like it happened to me."

Boyajian paid pimps and relatives from impoverished families to gain access to his victims, which he preferred to weigh less than 70 pounds. While the attacks took place in the village of Svay Pak,  a notorious destination for pedophiles from around the world, 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. 

"Given the defendant's age, this prison term amounts to a life sentence and assures no more children will be fall prey to this serial pedophile," said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "Successful prosecutions are crucial to combatting child sex tourism, but HSI is also focused on strategies to prevent such crimes from occurring, including Operation Angel Watch where HSI alerts foreign law enforcement when a convicted child predator is planning to travel to their country. Last fiscal year, HSI made over 2,100 notifications to more than 90 countries."

According to a sentencing brief filed by prosecutors, Boyajian was convicted in 1995 of unlawful sex with two 16-year-old girls, making him "a repeat and dangerous sex offender against minors."

Boyajian's sentencing follows 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 was prosecuted by David M. Herzog and Vanessa Baehr-Jones of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.