Ex-Marine Again Convicted of Using Drugs and Force to Sexually Abuse Young Girls in Cambodia

Handcuffed hands of a prisoner in prison, Male prisoners were severely strained in the dark prison, violence, human trafficking, prison and prisoner concept.

          LOS ANGELES – At the end of a re-trial prompted by appellate court reversal, a federal jury today convicted a retired Marine Corps captain who traveled to Cambodia in 2005 for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minors.

          Michael Joseph Pepe, 67, a former resident of Oxnard who has been in federal custody since 2007, was found guilty of four felony offenses – two counts of traveling in foreign commerce with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

          United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer is scheduled to sentence Pepe on December 6, at which time he will face a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison. The two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child each carry mandatory minimum sentences of 30 years in prison.

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          During the seven-day trial, jurors heard testimony from eight minor victims who were as young as 9 when they were sexually abused. Each of the victims testified that Pepe sexually abused them, and several explained that Pepe drugged, bound, beat and raped them.

          Prosecutors also presented evidence corroborating the victims’ testimony, including homemade child pornography.

          Pepe was initially charged in this case in 2006. After being brought to the United States in early 2007, he was subsequently tried, convicted and sentenced to prison. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction in 2018, and prosecutors decided to retry the defendant.

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          The investigation in this case was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations and the Cambodian National Police.

          Chief Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie S. Christensen, AUSA Damaris Diaz of the Violent and Organized Crime Section, and AUSA Lynda Lao of the General Crimes Section are prosecuting this case.

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