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Ex-USMC captain given 210 years in prison for sexually abusing girls in Cambodia

Federal prosecutors retried former USMC captain Michael Joseph Pepe when his original conviction was overturned four years ago. Monday, he was sentenced to more than 200 years in prison. File Photo by f11photo/Shutterstock
Federal prosecutors retried former USMC captain Michael Joseph Pepe when his original conviction was overturned four years ago. Monday, he was sentenced to more than 200 years in prison. File Photo by f11photo/Shutterstock

Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A former U.S. Marine Corps captain has been sentenced to more than 200 years in federal prison for traveling to Southeast Asia to sexually assault multiple underage girls, authorities said.

The Justice Department announced on Monday that Michael Joseph Pepe was sentenced to 210 years in prison for the crimes, which occurred about 17 years ago.

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In issuing the sentence, U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer called Pepe's actions "monstrous" and "horrific."

Eight women testified against Pepe at his trial last year and said that he'd drugged, raped and beaten them in Cambodia in 2005 when they were as young as 9. Pepe had been living there and teaching English.

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Federal prosecutors were forced to retry Pepe on the charges when his original conviction was overturned on appeal in 2018. The original conviction was thrown out when a divided appellate court concluded that the government hadn't shown that Pepe was "traveling" when he assaulted the girls, which was a key element of the charges.

Last August, Pepe was again convicted of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and crossing state lines with the intent to engage in sexual acts with a person under the age of 12.

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Pepe, 68, who's been in federal custody since 2007, was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security and the Cambodian National Police.

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"What he did to those preteen girls ... was torture," Fischer said, adding that there's "no justification for a sentence that would ever allow [Pepe] to be released from prison."

Pepe will appear in court on Feb. 28 for a restitution hearing.

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