In some parts of the world, the sex tourism industry is a booming business. With strict punishments in place in the U.S. for those who sexually abuse children, many would-be predators decide to travel to foreign countries to avoid detection. There have been several high-profile cases where an American traveling abroad has been arrested for having sexual relations with a minor.
One such case is Michael James Dodd, a U.S. citizen and convicted sex offender. In late 2007, he traveled to Cambodia to teach English, and began a relationship with a 14-year-old local girl. He began the process of marrying the girl, and paid the girl's family $200 a month to continue the relationship. He even complained to the girl's family that she was not showing him enough affection.
Law enforcement in Cambodia, working alongside the FBI, arrested Dodd. He was sent back to the U.S. for trial after serving 16 months of a 10-year sentence handed down by a Cambodian court. At his U.S. trial, Dodd received a 104-month term in federal prison.
Those who travel overseas for the purposes of engaging in sexual contact with a minor may face criminal charges in the U.S. under the PROTECT Act. The PROTECT Act, passed in 2003, carries substantial prison time of up to 30 years for those who are convicted of sex crimes involving children. Additionally, if the offender has a previous sex offense conviction that involved the sexual assault of a child, it is possible that he or she could face a potential life sentence.
Many more countries are becoming more proactive in their investigation of sex crimes against children. Law enforcement agencies and child protection groups around the world are reporting individuals that they believe are engaging in illegal activity.
With so many potential agencies involved in the process, it is crucial to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have been accused of these crimes in another country, to help you protect your rights in the U.S. You may be facing a significant federal prison sentence if you are convicted of a federal crime under the PROTECT Act.