Every year, over one million children are abused in the global commercial sex trade. 1 In the United States, federal laws prohibit any adults from traveling to another country to engage in illegal sexual activities with a child under the age of 18.

Federal Laws Define the Crime of Sex Tourism

Specific federal statutes under Title 18 of the U.S. Code define the crime and the punishments for child sex tourism, some of these statutes include: 2

  • 18 U.S.C. Section 2423(b): Travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct – U.S. citizens and residents are prohibited from traveling to a foreign country with the intent of engaging in sexual activities with a child. This is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

    Federal sex tourism is a serious crime with a harsh punishment.
    If you commit federal sex tourism crimes abroad, you can still be prosecuted in the United States.
  • 18 U.S.C. Section 2423(c): Engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places – U.S. citizens and legal residents are prohibited from going to another country and molesting or raping a child, or paying to have sex with a child. This carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.
  • 18 U.S.C. Section 2423(d): Ancillary Offenses, makes it illegal to be involved in the child sex tourism industry (sex tour operator). If you violate this law, you could face up to 30 years in prison.
  • 18 U.S.C. Sections 2251(c) and 2260(a): Production of Child Pornography outside the United States – makes it illegal to produce pornographic images outside of the US and import or intend to import them into the U.S. First time offenders face 15 to 30 years in prison for violating this law.
  • 18 U.S.C. Section 1591: Sex Trafficking of children by force, fraud, or coercion – makes it illegal to knowingly obtain a child (whether they are American or foreign) and offer or coerce them to engage in any type of sexual activity for something of value, including money, favor, goods or other type of benefit. This carries 15 years to life in prison if the child was under the age of 14, and 10 years to life in prison if the child victim was over the age of 14 and under the age of 18.

Consent Laws of Foreign Countries Do Not Apply to U.S. Citizens

You could be charged with a federal crime in the U.S. if you take a minor to another country where the age of consent is lower and engage in sexual intercourse there. In fact, under 18 U.S.C. Section 2423(b), it is against federal law to transport a minor to a foreign country or territory to engage in any type of criminal sexual activity, even if the laws of that country do not prohibit such activity. U.S. citizens and legal residents who transport a minor with the intent of engaging in criminal sexual activity face a prison sentence of 10 years to life.

What if you engage in sexual acts with a minor from that country? If you are a citizen of the United States or a legal resident of the U.S., you are bound by the laws of the U.S. and you could be charged with federal sex trafficking crimes if you engage in sexual acts with a minor while in another country. The penalties for illicit sexual conduct with another person include fines and up to 30 years in prison.

Recent Case of Federal Sex Tourism

A recent case exemplifies what happens if you engage in sexual activity with a child in a foreign country. In 2013, Ross Ornelas informed the FBI that he had found “lewd things” on the computer of his 63-year-old brother Robert. In October 2014, Robert was taken into federal custody based on evidence that he allegedly traveled to the Philippines in March 2012 and sexually abused a 14-year-old girl and videotaped it. He brought the video back into the United States in April.

For these alleged federal crimes, Ornelas is facing charges of possessing child pornography, producing child pornography, and engaging of child sexual conduct in a foreign country. According to the L.A. Times, the charges carry an 80-year maximum sentence. 3

Contact the Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich to Learn More

The partners at Wallin & Klarich will be there when you call
Call us today. We will get through this together.

If you are facing federal sex tourism charges, contact one of our experienced sex crimes defense attorneys as soon as possible. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have been successfully defending people accused of federal crimes for over 30 years, and we are committed to helping guide you through the process. Our attorneys are available to answer any of your questions.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich federal attorney near you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.


1. [http://www.fbi.gov/news/news_blog/bureau-initiative-focuses-on-child-sex-tourism]

2. [http://www.justice.gov/criminal/ceos/citizensguide/citizensguide_child-sex-tourism.html ]

3. [http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln–teacher-charged-with-sex-with-minor-20141027-story.html]]

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