Sex tour operator pleads guilty in Cleveland court

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

With an affidavit filed by U.S. Special Agent Peter Decensi, Russell Herman, the operator of changed his plea to guilty at the last moment. The charges against Herman were that he arranged and facilitated travel for the purpose of illicit sexual conduct.

Originally Herman's website was investigated by Decensi for counterfeit goods labeled as "replica" merchandise, using such brand names as Rolex. Various guided tours of Thailand were also on offer at the website, either aimed at contacting the sources of counterfeit goods or "marriage agencies where you can marry a beautiful young Thai girl between 18- 24 years old regardless of your age."

From June to late October of 2006, posing under the screen name of "david77" and claiming to be from Ohio, Special Agent Decensi exchanged emails with Herman who was on his seventh trip to Thailand. Herman assured that he knew all the "pick up" spots where young girls could be found. When Decensi inquired about girls aged 10-14 years he was cautioned by Herman that it was dangerous and illegal in Thailand, explaining that the punishment in Thailand would be severe. However, Herman went on to explain that he knew where to find what Decensi was looking for, and gave a cell phone number to call upon his arrival in Bangkok.

Instead of flying to Thailand, Agent Decensi passed the online persona of "david77" onto Assistant Attaché Gary Kiernan in Bangkok who phoned Herman. After declining an offer to go to Cambodia the two arranged to meet in Udon Thani. Offering to take Kiernan to brothels where girls of 15 were kept having been illegally brought into the country from Laos. On a tour of a number of brothels Assistant Attaché Kiernan saw girls with ages ranging from 12 to 17.

Telling Herman that he must fly back to the U.S., Kiernan avoids anything more than his tour of brothels. Assuring Herman he will return when an urgent job has been done he establishes that Herman will return to the U.S. on December 12.

Initially filed in Herman's home town of Las Vegas the case was transferred to Cleveland where Herman was detained. At present he remains in custody pending sentencing. The charge, Facilitating Travel to Engage in Illicit Sexual Content carries a sentence of up to 30 years. According to the Bangkok Post he is likely to receive a sentence between four and five years.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.