A former Baltimore area man accused of molesting children in Cambodia and the Philippines faces charges under a new U.S. law that allows Homeland Security agents to pursue child “sex tourists” overseas and return them for trial. Richard Arthur Schmidt, 61, a one-time teacher described as a computer-savvy child stalker, was extradited from Southeast Asia and faces prosecution under the U.S. Protect Act. If convicted, he could serve a U.S. prison sentence for a Cambodian crime. “Cambodia is about as far away from Baltimore as you can get, but no matter how far away you go, we’ll catch up to you,” said Allen Doody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Baltimore. “If we can get you in Cambodia, we can get you anywhere.”
Formerly, U.S. authorities had to prove that an international predator went into another country with the intent to harm or molest a minor. The new law waives the intent requirement; a pedophile can now be prosecuted on U.S. soil if it can be proved that he or she attempted to have sex with a child in another country.
In Schmidt’s case, two U.S. agents went to Cambodia to work with local police who observed the American socializing with children. The agents reviewed evidence found in Schmidt’s apartment in Phnom Penh, including a digital camera, Sony PlayStation, baseball gloves, and children’s clothing. Schmidt was arrested after he and a 12-year-old boy were found alone in a riverside guesthouse.
The crackdown on overseas child sex is part of “Operation Predator,” being carried out by a team of U.S. investigators stationed in more than 30 countries. Teams of federal agents are dispatched to countries considered targets for globetrotting sexual predators, or “sex tourists.”