Wed, Jun 21, 2006 - Page 4 News List

US `pedophile' arrested for rape, torture in Cambodia

AFP , PHNOM PENH

A US national has been arrested in Cambodia for allegedly raping and torturing at least three young girls, police said yesterday, adding that there may be many more victims.

Michael Joseph Pepe, 53, who works as a teacher, was arrested in Phnom Penh after police raided his home on Saturday, said Un Sokunthea, director of the department that fights human trafficking.

Three girls, aged nine to 11 years, and a 20 year-old woman were found in the house and are thought to be only some of Pepe's victims, she said.

"He bought children from the countryside to rape, and he also tortured them while raping," she said, adding that Pepe filmed the incidents.

Police confiscated hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls and other items allegedly used by Pepe, including rope which was used to bind his victims, she said.

The mother of one of the three young girls found in Pepe's home was arrested for selling her daughter to the suspect for US$300, police said.

The mother of the other two was arrested for renting her daught-ers to Pepe for sex for US$30 a month, they said.

A Vietnamese woman was arrested for helping find the children for the suspect and teaching them to have sex with him, Un Sokunthea said.

US embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle confirmed the arrest.

"Officials from the US embassy and the US Department of Homeland Security provided assistance to the Cambodian police during their investigations of allegations against Pepe involving child sexual abuse," he said.

"We definitely commend the Cambodian authorities for their swift reaction to these allegations," he said.

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