A Los Angeles-area man who traveled to Cambodia to engage in sexual activity with at least five boys has been sentenced to 22 years in federal prison after the court heard from four victims, officials announced Thursday.
Erik Leonardus Peeters of Norwalk, 48, was sentenced late Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder, who also ordered the defendant to pay $15,000 in restitution to his victims. Upon completion of his prison term, Peeters will also be subject to supervised release for the rest of his life.
Peeters pleaded guilty in March 2012 in Los Angeles federal court to two counts of engaging in illicit sexual contact with a minor in a foreign place.
According to documents filed in the case, Peeters traveled to Cambodia in April 2008 and within two months began seeking out youths for sex, targeting victims who were destitute and often disabled.
During the sentencing hearing, four of Peeters’ victims, who are now young adults, described their feelings of fear and shame stemming from their encounters with Peeters, as well as the shame and social stigma their families also suffered.
“I’m fearful, and I’m still ashamed,” one man said.
“The seriousness of this offense and the devastating impact the sexual assaults had on the victims cannot be overstated,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This defendant is a sexual predator who repeatedly victimized young boys, several of whom have physical disabilities, and all of whom come from deeply impoverished communities in the developing world.”
“This lengthy sentence sends a message to all pedophiles in the United States that they cannot escape prosecution by traveling to other countries to engage in illegal and horrific sexual acts against children,” she said.
Peeters was arrested by the Cambodian National Police in February 2009 for violating Cambodian laws that prohibit sexual contact with children. He was subsequently charged by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles with engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minors in a foreign country.
Peeters was returned to Los Angeles from Cambodia in August 2009. Years before he traveled to Cambodia, Peeters was convicted in Los Angeles County of lewd and lascivious conduct with boys under the age of 14.
“Americans tempted to commit sex crimes overseas should understand that tough U.S. laws will ensure they pay a high price for their criminal actions,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Los Angeles. “We owe it to the young victims, many of whom will bear the emotional scars for the rest of their lives.”
Peeters was the third and final defendant sentenced as part of Operation Twisted Traveler, a joint initiative by HSI and the U.S. Department of Justice to identify and prosecute American men who traveled to Cambodia and engaged in sexual conduct with children there.
The defendants were charged under the PROTECT Act, which took effect in 2003 and substantially strengthened the federal laws related to predatory crimes involving children outside the United States by adding new crimes and increasing prison sentences.
The other two defendants prosecuted as part of Operation Twisted Traveler, Ronald Gerard Boyajian and Jack Louis Sporich, received prison sentences of 70 years and 10 years, respectively. Sporich was 81 years old when he was sentenced in September 2015.
–City News Service
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