This week, courts on opposite sides of the U.S. convicted two American men for sexually exploiting children thousands of miles away in the Philippines. Two young survivors flew to California to testify in one of the trials. And this weekend, they are home knowing that their voices were heard and this man will terrify no more.
The battle for justice highlights the evolving complexity of human trafficking and the importance of international collaboration.
Though the cases are not connected, they tell the same twisted tale. The men had traveled separately to the Philippines to exploit young children they had sourced online. They were arrested in the U.S. in 2015 and 2017. The FBI shared intelligence with the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and IJM supported the follow-up operations in the Philippines.
“We are starting to see the referral loop work: An arrest of a child abuser in the U.S. uncovers evidence that leads to the Philippines, where law enforcement can rescue the children and arrest the individuals facilitating the abuse. That uncovers more evidence that can be used to shed light on the crimes the U.S. citizen was committing—and it could lead to even more arrests. Dismantling cybersex trafficking is a truly global effort,” explains Christa Hayden Sharpe, IJM Vice President of Southeast Asia Operations.
IJM Staff and Survivors Support Jury Trial in California
The California man, 57, had worked as an airline pilot based in Thailand. He struck up a relationship with a woman in the Philippines, paying her to find and photograph children in sexually explicit poses. He provided detailed instructions in their online chats, urging her to seek out orphans and victims of typhoons. He paid the woman thousands of dollars to purchase high-end cameras and rent hotels where she could make lewd photos of children. He would periodically travel to the Philippines to rape minors in person.
He was arrested in 2015 en route to the Philippines, and charged with multiple crimes, some under the PROTECT Act of 2003. This law makes it illegal for U.S. citizens to travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.
IJM helped Philippine authorities locate and rescue two 11-year-old girls and an 8-year-old who had been exploited by the two women he had been conspiring with; both women were convicted last September.
The Department of Justice flew two of those young survivors and one IJM staff investigator to California this summer to support the trial. The IJM investigator testified about how the victims were rescued, and the survivors boldly shared about how they had been abused and the man’s plans to return to the Philippines. The case was handed to the jury shortly after lunch. Within an hour, the girls were in the courtroom as the jury declared the Defendant guilty on all counts.
Two young survivors flew to California to testify in the trial against the man who had sexually exploited them.
Second U.S. Defendant Takes Guilty Plea
Within 24 hours, a 63-year-old American man in Virginia accepted a guilty plea for a similar case. He too had traveled to the Philippines to sexually exploit minors, directed live-streaming sexual abuse of children located in the Philippines, and traded abusive images of children with other pedophiles online.
IJM helped the NBI locate and arrest the suspect who allegedly recruited the victims, and five children were rescued during a March 2017 operation.
After the trial, the IJM investigator commended the tremendous cooperation that made justice possible: “Multiple agencies, numerous individuals, across nations all worked to ensure the victims were protected and that these American men, as well as the Filipino facilitators, will abuse no more. I’m grateful we were able to take part in the process.
”The girls who testified in the California trial are now 10 and 13 years old. Their families supported having their daughters participate in both the local trial and the trial in California, a significant amount of time and preparation. One of the girls’ mothers explained that she was “willing to leave our families at home and testify abroad to fight for justice for what the man from California did to our children.”
The girls are now in seventh and eighth grades, and they are participating in IJM’s aftercare program. The program offers support to the family, plus trauma-therapy for survivors and access to a range of services.
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