Convicted pedophile Michael Pepe was sentenced in a US federal court on Friday to a prison term of 210 years – 30 years for each of his seven counts of sexually abusing young girls in Phnom Penh before his arrest in 2006.
A former US Marine captain, Pepe was extradited to the US in 2007 and was convicted in 2008 under a law that allows the US government to prosecute American sex offenders for crimes committed in other countries.
At the sentencing, US Federal Judge Dale Fischer noted that Pepe – who worked in Phnom Penh as a part-time university professor – had shown “no remorse”.
“He went to Cambodia because it was easy to molest little girls there,” Fischer said. “He raped and tortured them … while maintaining the facade of being interested in the education of Cambodian children.”
Fischer also awarded almost $250,000 in restitution to the organisations that cared for Pepe’s victims.
Pepe paid Cambodian Cheung Thysang a commission to provide him with three 10- and 11-year-old girls, whom he reportedly drugged, beat and raped. Thysang is currently serving a 20-year sentence for procuring the young girls.
Khoem Vando, of the child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said yesterday that Pepe’s sentencing was encouraging, and called on other countries to take up the practice of extraditing and prosecuting their own nationals.
“I think that is a strong punishment, and it is a really strong message to deter [offenders] from coming to Cambodia,” Vando said.
“And it would be good if more countries would adopt extradition to try their own people. The punishment back home is almost always worse than the punishment here.”
In an unrelated case, British pedophile Ian Bower – who served two years in Cambodian prison on child sex charges, and was deported last month for lacking proper travel documents – was reportedly arrested and jailed in the UK on Friday for fleeing a halfway house in 2006 after completing a prison stint for sexually abusing children.
REPORTING BY AFP AND STUART WHITE