Americans Targeted for Allegedly Running Underage Prostitution in Philippines


The raid on Benjamin's Crow Bar is given the green light by NBI. The Australian film crew working with Father Shay organizes a fake bachelor party for a Tuesday night, designed to guarantee that Benjamin will be there. ABC News "Nightline" is invited to the party to be inside as the raid happens. ICE will also be joining NBI on the raid.

When Tuesday evening arrives, the plan starts to unravel. No one knows where the government social workers are who will be working with the girls after the raid. NBI doesn't have enough vehicles and they're an hour and a half late to the pre-raid planning meeting at Preda.

Fearing Benjamin will slip away, the party group heads to the bar at the designated time, not knowing if the raid will actually happen.

Around 15 girls are already dancing on stage as the group walks in and squeal with delight upon seeing them. Princess is among them. She's just gotten braces that week. Mama Lucy has cooked a number of dishes for the party and heaps food onto her guests' plates. Benjamin, however, is nowhere to be seen.

Around 45 minutes later he shows up, explaining he'd been watching a sex show at a nearby bar.

Meanwhile, NBI and ICE finally show up at Preda and after an animated meeting, load into cars and head to the bar.

Confusion breaks out as NBI and ICE agents come through the door and start herding the girls into a corner.

"I want to see your hands! Sit down! No talking!" McLoughlin shouts at the girls.

Benjamin, in a blue polo shirt, looks like he's trying to blend into the wall. He's not addressed by the authorities and after several minutes, he slowly heads for the door but is blocked by an NBI agent.

When the ABC News "Nightline" team reveals to him that they are journalists and asks him about whether he is selling underage girls out of his bar, he denies everything.

"I have never had underage girls here and I do not have sex with underage girls," he says calmly.

"It's just talk," he explains, "a bit of braggadocio."

He does not admit to knowing Jade, even when we told him all of his conversations with ABC News "Nightline" had been recorded on camera.

None of the girls admit to being underage and none turn on Benjamin. Princess insists she is 18 and defends Benjamin as a "good man, a nice man."

Dentists check the girls' teeth, one of the easiest ways to estimate someone's age.

"It's not like the movies, we're not greeted with a hug and a kiss on the cheek," McLoughlin said. "A lot of times unfortunately they view us as the enemy because they've grown up in this environment. They have been here for a while."

NBI fails to find Benjamin's name on any of the bar's documentation. But after several of the girls tell them that Benjamin owns the bar, the NBI agents feel they have enough to arrest him.

"There's no minors here, we don't have minors here," Benjamin tells the lead NBI agent when told he is under arrest for employing minors in the bar. "Fine, I'll go with you. I have no problem with that."

They quietly lead him -- without handcuffs -- to a white van. The girls are in another one. Everyone heads back to the Preda center to figure out the next moves.

Despite the arrest, Father Shay is not savouring the moment, instead arguing with the agents about where the girls are being taken, concerned they will be mistreated and the case will fall apart if they go to Manila, which he views as deeply corrupt.

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