Man is sentenced to 70 years in prison for traveling to Cambodia to sexually abuse children

A former Palos Verdes resident found guilty of traveling to Cambodia to sexually exploit children was sentenced to 70 years in federal prison Monday. 

Ronald Gerard Boyajian was convicted in March on federal counts of international travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors, engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor in foreign places, and commission of a felony offense involving a minor while required to register as a sex offender.

Boyajian, 55, had been convicted of 22 counts of illegal sex with a minor and oral sex with a minor stemming from a 1995 California case.

After he was released from parole, he traveled to Cambodia 35 times in a nine-year period to sexually abuse young, impoverished children there.

“After being convicted of sexually exploiting two children here in California, this defendant tried to evade justice by traveling to Cambodia to victimize even younger children,” U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder said during Monday’s hearing.

The total number of people who were victimized by Boyajian is unknown, officials said. 

“The conduct for which he was convicted is extremely serious,” Snyder said. “The reason the court has decided to impose the maximum sentence on each account is for the protection of the public.”

During sentencing, Boyajian was also ordered to pay $40,000 in restitution to a victim and $20,000 to Hagar International, a Cambodia-based organization that works against human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children. 

Boyajian, who also previously resided in Menlo Park, was one of the first people to be charged under operation Twisted Traveler, an international law enforcement initiative to crack down on Americans traveling to Cambodia to engage in sex with minors. Investigators from the Cambodian human rights organization Action Pour Les Enfants witnessed Boyajian visiting a child brothel and launched an investigation. Boyajian was arrested in 2009. 

According to a 2009 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement report, a victim told investigators the names of nine girls between ages 10 and 17 who were paid to perform oral sex on Boyajian, whom they knew as “John.” The U.S. attorney’s office said that Boyajian preferred his victims to weigh less than 70 pounds. 

Four of Boyajian’s victims, who were between ages 8 and 11 when they were abused, testified in court.

"I would like the court not to allow him to leave prison because there are possibly other children out there who could be harmed, just like it happened to me," one child pleaded. 

U.S. Dist. Atty. Eileen Decker said that pursuing child predators is a high priority. 

“These victims were very young women and children who were clearly very deeply affected,” Decker said.  “Hopefully the sentence gives them some sense of peace.”

Boyajian’s attacks took place in Svay Pak, a city where many poor Vietnamese immigrants live. It’s about 11 kilometers, or seven miles, outside Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Svay Pak is infamously known as a popular place for foreigners to have sex with young girls. 

Acting as his own attorney, Boyajian delayed the case for several years, objecting to nearly every aspect of the proceedings. During that time, he remained in custody in Los Angeles. In his last attempt to delay sentencing, Boyajian filed a motion to have Snyder removed from the case.

The sentence issued Monday is conditional pending a ruling on that motion.


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