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)