An American missionary who was sentenced to a year in prison in June for sexually abusing five underage boys in the care of an orphanage he ran in Phnom Penh was deported to the U.S. early Tuesday morning, an immigration official said.
Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, said his department handed over 36-year-old Daniel Johnson to an FBI attache in Phnom Penh at the request of the U.S. Embassy.
Mr. Heisela also said that Mr. Johnson, who had lived in Cambodia for more than a decade, would never be allowed to return.
“When we deport someone, they are not allowed to come back,” he said.
Mr. Johnson’s 2013 arrest was the result of an investigation conducted jointly by the FBI and the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking police department. At the time, Pol Pithey, the trafficking department’s director, said the FBI was investigating the American over allegations of child sex abuse in the U.S.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Jay Raman declined to comment Tuesday.
In 2000 and 2001, the district attorney’s office in Lincoln County, Oregon, charged Mr. Johnson with six counts of sex abuse and sodomy committed against three children in the care of his sister, according to a 2003 article in the Yamhill Valley News-Register.
The charges were later dropped, according to Lincoln County Deputy District Attorney Earl Woods, because investigating officers doubted the reliability of testimony from the boys, who had also admitted to lying about sexual abuse committed by their birth mother, the article says. Their birth mother was sentenced to 116 years in prison, then exonerated when the boys recanted.
After Mr. Johnson’s arrest in Cambodia, a separate investigation by anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) revealed numerous claims of abuse committed by Mr. Johnson at his Home of Hope orphanage in Meanchey district’s Boeng Tompun commune, which cared for at least 30 children and teenagers.
APLE country director Samleang Seila said Tuesday that the abuses included touching of the five boys’ genitals as well as oral and anal sex.
During the course of the trial, however, all of the victims either recanted or changed their statements. Mr. Seila said he thinks this was because they were afraid to lose financial support from Mr. Johnson.
“I also think the relationship for some victims with Johnson is still quite close, and they did not want to see Johnson deported,” he said.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court ultimately found Mr. Johnson guilty of committing indecent acts against boys under the age of 15.
While sitting outside his cell at the immigration department on Monday, Mr. Johnson said he was innocent and accused APLE of intimidating and coercing the five victims to testify against him. This, he said, was so APLE could use his conviction to court new donors.
“At some point…they started focusing on numbers, and when they started focusing on numbers they lost line of sight with fact,” he said.
Mr. Johnson said he suspected that APLE considered him an easy target because the FBI wanted him for questioning over the case in Oregon.
“It was an opportunity for them to jump on the train when I was being sought for questioning,” he said.
APLE’s Mr. Seila, however, said Mr. Johnson’s accusations that his NGO pursued him for the sake of money were baseless.
“This is ridiculous, there is no reason at all we would do this,” he said.
Mr. Seila also said that none of the boys or their families was intimidated or coerced during the investigation.
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