A federal jury has convicted a retired US Marine captain of travelling to Cambodia to have sex with underage girls after hearing testimony from his victims.
Michael Joseph Pepe, 54, of Oxnard, California faces up to 210 years in prison for the guilty verdicts on seven felony counts, the US Attorney’s office in Los Angeles said in a statement on Thursday.
During the trial, six girls testified that Pepe drugged, bound, beat and raped them and a commercial sex worker told the court on videotape about bringing him young victims, federal prosecutors said.
A total of seven girls, ages 9 to 12 at the time, were sexually abused by the former Marine captain, the statement said.
Prosecutors also provided evidence seized by Cambodian authorities including rope and cloth strips used to restrain the victims, sedatives and homemade child pornography.
“This case represented one of the most egregious examples of international sex tourism we have ever investigated and the jury’s verdict is a reminder that pedophiles who attempt to evade detection and prosecution by committing sex crimes overseas face serious consequences,” said Robert Schoch, special agent of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement office of investigations in Los Angeles.
Pepe was prosecuted under a federal law adopted five years ago, the Protect Act, that bolstered penalties against predatory crimes involving children outside the United States.
The investigation was a joint effort by the Cambodian National Police, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.