By Daniel Montes Bay City News Service
A federal jury in Los Angeles found a Menlo Park man guilty Monday of traveling to Cambodia to have sex with underage girls.
After a six-week trial, Ronald Gerard Boyajian, 55, was found guilty of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, engaging in illicit sexual contact with a minor in foreign places and committing the offenses while being required to register as a sex offender, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
In February 2009, Boyajian was arrested in Cambodia while on his 35th trip to Asia over a nine-year period. Boyajian began traveling to Cambodia shortly after he completed parole for convictions from 1994 for illegal sex with a minor and oral sex with a minor, prosecutors said.
The verdict "should send a clear and resounding message that traveling overseas to exploit children will not go unnoticed or unpunished," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations special agent Joseph Macias said in a statement.
Boyajian sought out victims in the village of Svay Pak, located just outside of the country's capital of Phnom Penh, according to prosecutors.
The village is a known place where foreigners go to have sexual contact with females, often young girls, according to a Cambodian anti-human trafficking officer who testified at the trial, prosecutors said.
Boyajian paid pimps and relatives of poor families to have access to the victims, which he preferred to weigh less than 70 pounds, prosecutors said.
Boyajian assaulted four victims, girls who at the time were between 8 and 11 years old. One victim, who was 8 years old at the time, testified at the trial and described Boyajian as abusive and cruel, prosecutors said.
"The evidence presented at trial showed that Boyajian thought he could molest and intimidate his young victims with impunity because he was in a foreign county, but he could not have been more mistaken," U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said in a statement.
"I also salute the courage of the victims who were willing to come to the United States to be witnesses at the trial and testify against him," Decker said.
Boyajian is facing a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for each of the two travel offenses and a mandatory consecutive 10-year term for committing the offenses while being required by California law to register as a sex offender.
Because the two convictions carry a potential sentence with doubling provisions, Boyajian may be sentenced to a maximum of 130 years in federal custody, according to prosecutors.
A U.S. District Court judge is scheduled to sentence Boyajian on June 13.