Michael Joseph Pepe, former US Marine Corps captain, was found guilty of drugging and raping multiple Cambodian children as young as 9 years old last Monday, facing over 210 years in federal prison. His crimes of raping children started during his trip to Phnom Penh in 2005.

The Marine Corps veteran, who had traveled to Cambodia originally as a civilian university teacher in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh, was originally arrested in the Asian country in 2006 and was subsequently extradited to the United States, where his cases were heard in courts from 2007 till today. By 2008, he had been convicted of 7 felony counts and has been under the custody of the Department of Justice ever since.

Cambodian police had started investigating Michael Pepe when one of his rape victims come forward in the capital, and the government informed the US authorities. It was discovered that Pepe had allegedly hired prostitutes to buy children from their respective families. He then proceeded to sexually assault them, taking explicit photographs of children naked and drugging them with sedatives so he could freely rape them. These sex crimes occurred from 2005 to 2006, with the illegal photographs being discovered in 2006 by a police raid on his Cambodian home.

However, he could not be immediately sentenced in 2008. Issues had surfaced during the trial when the lead investigator ICE Special Agent Gary J. Phillips, had been discovered to have a sexual relationship with Vietnamese interpreter Ann Luong Spiratos who spoke and translated on behalf of the Cambodian girls. This led Pepe’s defense to take advantage of the situation and argue that the relationship had tainted the testimony of the girls. It was this issue that delayed his sentencing. After an assessment, a judge found that the sexual relationship was inappropriate and could’ve contributed to the interpreter skewing the girls’ testimonies. Thus, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the guilty conviction in 2018, and Pepe was re-tried.