LOS ANGELES – A retired Marine Corps captain who traveled to Cambodia in 2005 for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minors was sentenced today to 210 years in federal prison.
Michael Joseph Pepe, 68, a former Oxnard resident who has been in federal custody since 2007, was sentenced by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who described Pepe’s actions as “monstrous” and “horrific.”
“What he did to those pre-teen girls…was torture,” Judge Fischer said, noting that there was “no justification for a sentence that would ever allow [Pepe] to be released from prison.”
Judge Fischer has scheduled a restitution hearing in this case for February 28.
During a seven-day trial in August 2021, jurors heard testimony from eight victims who were as young as 9 years old when they were sexually abused. Each of the victims testified that Pepe sexually abused them, and several explained that Pepe drugged, bound, beat and raped them.
Prosecutors also presented evidence corroborating the victims’ testimony, including homemade child pornography.
Pepe initially was arrested in Cambodia 2006. After being brought to the United States and charged in early 2007, he subsequently was tried, convicted and sentenced to prison. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the conviction in 2018, and prosecutors retried the defendant on new charges.
Homeland Security Investigations and the Cambodian National Police investigated this matter.
First Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie S. Christensen, Assistant United States Attorney Damaris Diaz of the Violent and Organized Crime Section, and Assistant United States Attorney Lynda Lao of the General Crimes Section prosecuted this case.