DOJ Steps Up Prosecution of Americans Who Sexually Abuse Children Overseas
In recent months, the Department of Justice has stepped up its efforts to prosecute Americans who travel overseas to sexually abuse children.
In the span of just one week, the DOJ announced the sentencing of two men and the indictment of a third for acts of child sexual abuse they allegedly committed overseas.
One of the men, Paul Alan Shapiro, 71, a retired auto dealership employee who lives in Los Angeles, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing minor boys in Thailand.
Shapiro also will be forced to pay $20,000 in total to two victims, both of whom are Thai nationals.
According to the DOJ, Shapiro traveled to Thailand on multiple occasions over the past 20 years and engaged in sexual acts with boys under the age of 16.
“Shapiro paid minors as young as 13 years old small amounts of local currency in order to engage in various sex acts with them,” the DOJ said in a statement.
The DOJ also sentenced a former defense contractor to six years in prison for paying a 14-year-old girl for sex on multiple occasions in the Philippines in 2007.
James Marvin Reed, 62, was working in the Philippines as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense when he repeatedly engaged in commercial sexual intercourse with the victim, impregnating her.
Reed had been arrested in 2016 in the Philippines and was returned to the United States for prosecution. He was also ordered to pay $6,000 in restitution to the victim.
On June 13, the DOJ indicted a Wisconsin man with the crimes of producing child porn and engaging in illicit conduct in a foreign place.
Jeffrey Ernisse, 61, allegedly engaged in illicit sexual conduct with a minor in the Philippines.
According to the indictment in March and April 2015, Ernisse used a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct to produce child pornography.
The DOJ announced on June 12 that it had arrested more than 2,300 suspects of child abuse in a sweeping nationwide operation.
In Operation Broken Heart, the DOJ reviewed more than 25,000 sexual abuse complaints. Almost 400 children who suffered from recent, ongoing, or historical sexual abuse or the production of child pornography were identified.
Among the 2,300 arrested where those who are suspected to have produced, distributed, or possessed child pornography, as well as those who enticed children for sexual purposes online, those who engaged in the sex trafficking of children, or those who traveled across state lines or to foreign countries to sexually abuse children.
The targeting of offenders of child sexual abuse has been a key focus of the Trump administration.
In April, President Donald Trump signed a bill that makes it easier for law enforcement to crack down on child sex trafficking.
The International Labor Organization estimates that almost 5 million people around the world are being sexually exploited. One million of those are children.
One in 7 children who are reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is likely a victim of child sex trafficking.
The recent DOJ arrests are part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative by the DOJ to combat child exploitation and abuse.
“Any would-be criminal should be warned: This Department will remain relentless in hunting down those who victimize our children,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.