US Sex Offender Charged With Rape of Cambodian Child

A U.S. sex offender who was to be extradited from Cambodia will remain to stand trial after being accused of raping a 5-year-old girl, officials said on Monday.

Robert James Boehnlein, 65, was being held at the Battambang provincial prison after being charged on Sunday with rape with aggravating circumstances, said Seng Phanith, provincial court spokesman.

Sex offender Robert Boehnlein, center, is detained by immigration police officers last month in Battambang City, in this photograph provided by the Interior Ministry’s immigration department.

Mr. Boehnlein, who has outstanding warrants in the U.S., was arrested by immigration police late last month in Battambang City at the request of the U.S. State Department, Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, said on Monday.

After realizing he was living in Cambodia, the U.S. State Department decided to revoke his passport and asked that Cambodian authorities arrest and deport him, Lieutenant General Heisela said.

The U.S. agreed to drop its extradition request if Mr. Boehnlein was found guilty and sentenced in Cambodia, Lt. Gen. Heisela said.

Born Vannara, chief of the provincial police’s anti-human trafficking unit, said the girl told authorities that Mr. Boehnlein had raped her several times between March and April last year at the house in which he was living, an account that was confirmed by her mother.

The mother later grew reluctant to cooperate with police and eventually declined to allow authorities to further question her daughter, Mr. Vannara added.

The girl also said Mr. Boehnlein showed her his genitals several times both inside his bedroom and bathroom, a claim her mother denied, Mr. Vannara added.

Mr. Boehnlein, who arrived in Cambodia in October 2014, denied all the girl’s accusations, Mr. Vannara said. If convicted, he faces seven to 15 years in prison.

Parents of sexually-abused children may be reluctant to cooperate with police because foreign sex offenders tend to form close relationships with and offer financial support to victims and their families, said Samleang Seila, executive director of anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants.

“The foreigners mostly use a grooming method by directly luring the child and helping and supporting the family,” Mr. Seila said.

Parents also may not cooperate due to distrust of the justice system, concern about tarnishing their family’s reputation and offenders’ threats, he said.

In an email on Monday, Arend Zwartjes, spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, declined to comment on the specifics of the case, citing privacy reasons, but said the U.S. was “proud of the law enforcement cooperation that led to the arrest.”

Mr. Boehnlein, who was convicted of child sexual abuse in the U.S. in 2002 and released from prison in 2011, is registered as a sex offender in the states of Louisiana and Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. National Sex Offender Public website.

Lisa Hardy, a detective in the sex offender unit of the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office in Lake Charles, Louisiana, said earlier this month that the U.S. suspect still had active warrants, issued in June 2015 for violating sex offender registration requirements.

Although Mr. Boehnlein is required to verify his address with authorities every three months, he last spoke with a Pennsylvania investigator in November 2014 after he missed a required police check-in, Matthew Auker, a criminal investigation unit supervisor of the Pennsylvania State Police, said earlier this month.

Mr. Boehnlein informed the investigator over the telephone that he was living in Mexico and would not be returning to the U.S., Mr. Auker said.

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