LOS ANGELES (AP) â€” A retired Marine captain was convicted Thursday of having sex with pre-teen girls while working as a teacher in Cambodia.
A federal jury found Michael Joseph Pepe guilty of seven counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. The federal law targets people who go overseas for so-called child sex tourism. During trial, six girls who were between 9 and 12 at the time of the abuse testified that Pepe drugged, bound, beat and raped them. Pepe was arrested in Phnom Penh in 2006 by Cambodian police investigating the sexual abuse allegations. Prosecutors said Pepe forced the girls to give him massages and oral sex when they came home from school. Pepe would also give the girls a date rape drug before having sex with them, Assistant U.S. District Attorney Patricia Donahue said during trial. Pepe, 54, of Oxnard, faces up to 210 years in prison when he is sentenced in September. Deputy Federal Public Defender Carl Gunn said he might file an appeal after sentencing.
During trial, Gunn argued the assaults were committed by a prostitute and her boyfriend who had access to Pepe’s house.