US Teacher Accused of Debauchery

A US teacher in Phnom Penh is accused of having sex with girls as young as 12 years old and could appear in court today to face charges of debauchery, officials said Sunday.

Charles Landis, a 38-year-old from Hawaii state, paid at least three young girls for sex at his rented home, according to Meng Say, chief of the municipality’s anti-trafficking police.

Police say seven girls between the ages of 12 and 16 have told authorities that Landis had invited them into his home several times since 2001. Three girls said Landis had sex with them, Meng Say said.

Meng Say said police had investigated Landis since June or July, and that in addition to the girls’ testimony, they had confiscated a computer to check for pornographic photos.

He was arrested at about noon Thursday, Meng Say said.

The allegations against the long-time teacher at the Home of English are a “shock,” said Steve Billington, a part-owner of the school.

“We had not heard any complaints about him. This is a shock to us,” Billington said.

He said there was no indication that the girls involved were students at the school.

“We have strict policies against things like that, or even the semblance of such things,” he said. “If [the accusations] are true, he was very clever about keeping it a secret, because there was never any indication of this kind of thing at the school.”

Landis appeared in municipal court Saturday and requested a lawyer, said prosecutor Nget Sarath. He is scheduled to appear in court today and will be charged with debauchery, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, he said.

The girls are currently in the care of the NGO Afesip, director Pierre Legros said. Legros said the girls’ exact age was unclear, but said one could be as young as 10.

Police said two girls were 12 years old, two were 13, one was 14 and two were 16. Fifteen is the legal age of consent.

The arrest comes less than two weeks after Cambodian authorities shipped off another US citizen to face charges in his home country for allegedly having sex with young boys in Phnom Penh.

Richard Arthur Schmidt is facing several counts of sexual exploitation of children in a federal court in Maryland state, and could face 30 years in prison if convicted. He was the third US man sent home to face charges for alleged sex crimes in Cambodia.

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