Norwalk child sex predator gets 22 years in prison for crimes against children in Cambodia

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LOS ANGELES >> A previously convicted child sex predator from Norwalk who traveled to Cambodia for sex with at least five boys received a sentence of more than two decades in federal prison this week, authorities said.
Erik Leonardus Peeters, 48, received a 22-year prison term in federal court in Los Angeles on Wednesday after pleading guilty in 2012 to two counts of engaging in illicit sexual contact with a minor in a foreign place, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder also ordered Peeters to pay $15,000 in restitution to his victims, officials said. Upon his release from prison, he will be subject to supervised release for life.
“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,” according to U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Eileen M. Decker.”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.”
Peeters was already a registered sex offender, convicted of crimes against young boys in 1990, when he visited Southeast Asia, according to federal prosecutors and California’s sex offender database.
“According to court documents filed in this 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,” Mrozek said.
Cambodian National Police arrested him in February of 2009 for violating Camobian laws against child sex abuse, according to Mrozek.
U.S. prosecutors subsequently filed charges of engaging in sexual conduct with minors in a foreign country, authorities said. He was returned to the U.S. to face the American justice system in August of 2009.
Four of Peeters’ victims appeared at his sentencing hearing Wednesday to tell the court how his abuse had affected their lives, Mrozek said.
According to California’s sex offender database, Peeters was convicted in 1990 of committing lewd or lascivious acts on a boy under 14 years old. Records indicate he was released from jail or prison the same year.
“Peeters is the third and final defendant sentenced as part of Operation Twisted Traveler, a joint initiative by (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations) and the Department of Justice to identify and prosecute American men who traveled to Cambodia and engaged in sexual conduct with children there,” Mrozek said. “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 U.S. by adding new crimes and increasing prison sentences.”
Two other men have received prison sentences of 70 years and 10 years, respectively, in connection with the operation.
Special Agent in Charge of HSI in Los Angeles Joseph Macias credited the law enforcement officials who investigated and prosecuted the cases for their “tenacity and tireless dedication.”
“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,” he said. “We owe it to the young victims, many of whom will bear the emotional scars for the rest of their lives.”

PHOTO: Erik Leonardus Peeters, 48, of Norwalk. (courtesy)

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Suspected members of Mexican drug cartel arrested by ATF

Received an interesting DOJ press release this afternoon that talks about the arrest of four local men involved in running guns and drugs for a Mexican drug cartel, right here in the San Gabriel Valley.
Here’s some of what is says:


An investigation into guns being trafficked from Arizona to California has led to the arrest of four individuals, one of whom sold several machine guns to a undercover operative and claimed to be tied to a Mexican drug cartel.

        The four defendants were arrested early this morning by special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department. During the course of the 10-month investigation, authorities purchased or seized 50 firearms, including 17 guns that were discovered during the execution of search warrants this morning.

        During the investigation, an undercover operative made a series of gun purchases from three of the defendants. The purchases included guns similar to AK-47s, Uzis and AR-15s, some of which were fully automatic weapons.

        Those arrested today are:

  • Edgardo Prado Casteneda, aka “Primo,” 26, of Azusa, who claimed to be a Southern California operative of the La Familia drug cartel based in Michoacan, Mexico;
  • Vicente Garcia Jr., aka “Chevy,” 38, of Azusa;
  • Steven Scott Blanks, 47, of Norco; and
  • Victor Velasquez, aka “Fingers,” 34, of El Monte, who is accused of delivering a quarter-pound of methamphetamine that was purchased by the undercover operative.

The four defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearances this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.

<snip>

 The arrests were made today as Prado apparently made plans to collect a “debt” and possibly kidnap a man he said owed money to La Familia. Over the past several weeks, Prado allegedly had a series of conversations with the undercover operative about helping collect a large “debt” that a man owed to La Familia. According to the affidavit, Prado told the informant that a boss in the cartel that he called “Cuete” had sent a courier to Mexico to transport narcotics, but the courier was arrested and provided information to Mexican authorities that led to the arrest of another high-ranking cartel member in Mexico City. As a result of this, “Cuete” owed the Cartel $3 million. If the informant participated in the collection of the “debt,” Prado promised him a share of money that would be paid by the cartel.

        A criminal complaint filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles charges Prado with selling firearms without a license and distributing methamphetamine.

        Garcia is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

        Blanks is charged with possession of a machine gun.

        Velasquez is charged with distribution of methamphetamine.

        If convicted of the crimes alleged in the criminal complaint, the defendants would face maximum potential sentences of at least 10 years in prison.

An affidavit filed in federal court and attached here details gun deals, drug deals and talk of contract murder and kidnapping. All apparently connected to “La Familia,” a Mexican drug cartel. Here’s all the details 

cartel gun runner – affidavit.pdf

 

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