New federal efforts target child-sex predators who travel overseas

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A new federal operation monitors registered sex offenders and alerts foreign governments when they plan to travel overseas, possibly to prey on children. (Dept. of Homeland Security photo)

When it comes to tracking known sex offenders, the long arm of the law is getting longer.

New initiatives and international partnerships are targeting child-sex offenders like never before.

"We are seeing more travelers going overseas so we have to step up our game," said Joe Macias, Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge.

The newly established Operation Angel Watch Center monitors specific activity of registered sex offenders across the nation.

When they make travel plans to an impoverished nation, there's an alert.

Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection notify the foreign government. That sex traveler can be turned away from even entering that foreign country or be targeted for surveillance.

Special Agent Jonathan Ruiz said child brothels operate openly in Southeast Asia. He shows pictures of a compound constructed by one U.S. sex tourist providing housing for his victims and their families. He said they submit to the abuse because they become dependent on the abuser's money.

"Whether it is to pay debts, drinking, addictions or any other vice that they have, (they are) subjecting their kids to work as child sex workers in these villages," Ruiz said.

Angel Watch is spreading.

"In 2015 alone we've had over 2,100 notifications that we have sent out to 91 different countries," Macias said.

Non-governmental organizations help monitor the foreign molesters. When the offenders are caught and tried in U.S. courts, federal prosecutors are demanding heavier sentences.

"We have to keep in mind that these are children who are being taken advantage of and these large sentences are appropriate for this kind of crime," said U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker.

By deterring offenders from traveling, Angel Watch aims to tamp down entire economies built on the child sex trade.

"What we are trying to do is close that gap from a disruption to a dismantlement," Macias said.
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