US National Charged With Debauchery

A US national was jailed Monday for allegedly photographing underage Vietnamese prostitutes, the latest in a string of foreigners charged with sex crimes.

Frank Kent, 47, was charged with taking pornographic photos and debauchery, Deputy Prose­cutor Nget Sarath said. He said Kent was arrested Thursday afternoon in the company of four Vietnamese girls between the ages of 15 and 18.

“We have confiscated some pornographic photos,” Nget Sarath said. Kent could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, he said.

Kent, from California, covered his face with a hat and declined to speak to reporters as he left a Phnom Penh municipal courtroom Monday. Investigating Judge Nop Sophon ordered that Kent be detained at Prey Sar prison until trial.

“I would not release him,” Nop Sophon said. “The case remains under investigation.”

Kent’s arrest comes less than a week after US citizen Blake Alan Respiny, 47, was charged with debauchery for allegedly having sex with young boys.

A few days before Respiny went to court, US citizen Richard Alan Schmidt, 61, was arrested and charged with his second count of debauchery in less than a week. Schmidt was first arrested Dec 22 and was rearrested two days after a municipal court judge said there was not enough evidence to detain him.

Both men are in prison awaiting trial.

Pierre Legros, director of Afesip, an NGO that works with trafficking victims, said improved relationships between police, the courts and NGOs was starting to net more foreign sex offenders, but he was reserved in his praise.

“I still don’t think it is very good,” Legros said. “We have three cases when we should have 25.”

He added: “We see a lot of tourists come in for the New Year [holiday] and surely there is an increase in the sexual exploitation of kids.”

Police raided Kent’s guest house room in Chamkar Mon district after receiving tips from his neighbors that he was frequently bringing young girls to his room, said Keo Thea, deputy chief of the municipal police’s anti-human trafficking bureau.

More than 400 pornographic photographs and more than 100 pornographic VCDs were confiscated from the room, as well as a camera, a computer and lubricant, Keo Thea said.

The four girls—ages 15, 16, 17 and 18—were transferred to Afesip for care and a medical examination, police and Legros said.

Frank is believed to have traveled in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand over the last year. He most recently arrived in Cambodia on Dec 5, police said.

Under legislation passed in the US Congress last year, US citizens can be fined and imprisoned in the US for crimes committed on foreign soil. At least two US citizens have been deported for trial from Cambodia under the new law.

(Additional reporting by Luke Reynolds)

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