Stolen Innocence: Inside the Shady World of Child Sex Tourism

Eight teenage boys have been flown in from Trebujeni, Moldova, and will likely face cross examination from defense attorney Mark Geragos, who has represented such notable clients as Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson.

Geragos said that Bianchi simply befriended the boys. He argued that his client is the victim of blackmail and extortion by villagers, and that his translator and alleged pimp confessed only after Moldovan police had tortured him, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"While he was there, Mr. Bianchi was a benefactor for a large number of people in the village, young and old, male and female," Geragos said in a filing quoted in the Inquirer. "He provided money for food, medical care and transportation to much of the village."

Geragos unsuccessfully tried to have the case dismissed, arguing that while the U.S. government had paid to bring the Moldovan boys to Philadelphia, Bianchi had been unable to compel or pay for defense witnesses to attend the trial, according to the Inquirer.

Distance Makes Prosecutions Difficult

Smolenski of ECPAT agreed that defending and prosecuting clients in cases like Bianchi's is complicated and expensive because lawyers often have to collect evidence in another country and fly foreign witnesses into the United States.

Another problem is that many of the tour operators and middlemen don't know or ask the ages of their prostitutes, which even the children themselves don't always know, said Franzblau.

Despite these difficulties, there have been 55 child sex tourism cases and 36 convictions brought under the Protect Act, according to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' 2006 trafficking report. 

Private industry and Internet service providers are working with law enforcement to shut down pedophile ring chat rooms, while financial groups and coalitions are monitoring to make sure credit cards aren't being used to pay for child pornography, said Amy O'Neill Richard of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the Department of State.

According to the U.S. government, 32 countries have laws that allow them to join the global movement to prosecute their citizens who engage in child sex tourism abroad.

NGOs have been encouraging travel agencies like hotels, airlines and tour operators to sign a "code of conduct" to commit to training staff and advertising the illegality of sex tourism, said Richard. Since 2004, more than 600 companies around the world have joined the efforts.

Temsamani of SOS Morocco also said he's been planning a 2008 benefit concert for the African country to boost the economy with "healthy" dollars.

Advocates encourage good Samaritans to report U.S. citizen suspects abroad to the nearest U.S. Embassy and Consulate. The State Department said that if you are at home and overhear or see suspicious online behavior, call 1-866-DHS2ICE, a reporting tip hotline.

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