A former marine captain has reportedly been, once again, found guilty of abuse and "sex tourism" in a re-trial after he traveled to Cambodia in 2006, allegedly with the intention to heinously drug and sexually assault underage girls.

Michael Joseph Pepe, 67, a retired Marine Corps captain and a former resident of Oxnard, has been in federal custody since 2007 after being convicted of two federal counts each of traveling in foreign commerce with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

Pepe reportedly targeted minors as young as 9 years old at the time of the abuse. A number of the Cambodian victims testified against Pepe and alleged that he drugged, bound, beat, raped, and sexually abused them, according to the United States Department of Justice.

Pepe was initially charged in 2006. In February 2014, the serial rapist was sentenced to 210 years in federal prison, 30 years for each of the seven girls he molested. However, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction in 2018, forcing prosecutors to retry the defendant.

Pepe was reportedly working part-time as a teacher when he was arrested by the Cambodian National Police in June 2006, after a girl sought law enforcement claiming that she and several other children had been abused by the American.

After authorities searched his villa in Phnom Penh, police reportedly rescued three girls, aged 9, 10, and 11, that he had abducted. In addition to this, they also discovered hundreds of pornographic images, drugs, and children's clothes, as well as rope and cloth strips, which the children alleged that Pepe used to bind and gag them, KFI AM 640 reported.

Pepe reportedly frequented the Southeast Asian country and returned to the United States twice in 2005, traveling back to Cambodia via Los Angeles regularly because poor Asian children proved easy prey for him, Assistant U.S. Attorney Damaris Diaz told the jury in opening statements last week.

Diaz said that parents in Phnom Penh allegedly sold their children to Pepe for US$30 a month to allow the girls to live with him. He added that Pepe allegedly also paid a premium of between US$100 to US$200 for their virginity.

Pepe's sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 6 before United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison.

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An ex-marine captain has been convicted of abuse and "sex tourism" after he traveled to Cambodia and sexually assaulted underage girls by drugging them before coercing them to have sex with him. This is a representational image. PIXABAY

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