Americans Targeted for Allegedly Running Underage Prostitution in Philippines

In December, Cullen started to encourage an 18 year-old prostitute who had worked at Crow Bar to tell him and his social workers what she saw inside the bar. Two months later, the girl, Marisol, agrees to sit down with Cullen and his social workers, leafing through pages of photos from the bar. She identities four girls who she says worked there as underage, including a baby-faced one who is known in the bar as Princess.

"These characters who come here looking for sex with young children and selling them to everybody like they're just like chickens in the market ... I mean, we are ready for the worst evil that we can imagine," Cullen said. "They are really evil people who need a millstone around their neck, to be thrown in the ocean here."

Father Shay, as he's known to everyone at Preda, blames the rampant underage prostitution on a combination of widespread poverty, lax and corrupt law enforcement and a "machismo kind of culture that says women are objects, girls are the most desirable."

In the months after Benjamin first appeared as a blip on Father Shay's radar in September, Father Shay says he has gathered enough evidence through Marisol and a team of Australian documentary filmmakers that had been working undercover to present it to the National Bureau of Investigation, the Filipino equivalent of the FBI.

Working with them on American cases is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE. Under the PROTECT Act, they work with the Filipino authorities to extradite Americans back to the United States for prosecution.

"For me, as long as they're behind bars, not committing these acts, I sleep very well at night. Whether it's in the Philippines or in the United States," Special Agent Eric McLoughlin said in an interview.

McLoughlin estimates that he has been involved in thousands of investigations involving Americans in his three years here that involve sexually abusing minors.

"A lot of the Americans want to come here because they perceive it is easier to operate here than in the United States," he said. "And we are happy to remind them they are sadly mistaken. We are going to find them and they are going to be held accountable."

In early February, as Father Shay and Marisol drive to Manila to try to convince NBI to raid Benjamin's bar, ABC News "Nightline" set up another meeting with Benjamin at a café on the former American base.

Over coffee, he continues to boast about his girlfriend Jade, who he says is only 16, one of several underage girls he says he has been with. He met Jade a year and a half ago and slept with her and her older sister, he said, before taking Jade in.

"She was hungry, she needed someone to take care of her," he said, raising his arms. "I'm in. You know what I want.

"But if she f---s up, does something I don't like, I kick her out, doesn't bother me. There is always another one."

Asked how manages to hide the underage girls from the authorities, he credits his Mama-san, the term for a Filipina woman found in every bar who recruits and manages the girls. His Mama-san is called Lucy.

"Lucy is a master at it. She's had a lot of underage girls working for her whether it was at [another bar] Miami where she was before and my place," he explained. "The girls will get their older sisters' birth certificates, that's pretty much how they do it. Sister or cousin."

Benjamin claimed he pays graft money to four different groups of local authorities to "keep them off our ass."

"Someone put out that I was a pedophile, that I like younger girls. So Lucy talked to them and now [a top local police official] happens to be a good friend of ours, a good friend of mine," he laughs.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...