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Tampa lawyer already convicted of child sex abuse in Cambodia indicted on new charges in the US

He's accused of paying girls for sex while traveling to Cambodia in 2019.
Credit: Cambodiapolice.com

TAMPA, Fla. — A Tampa man was indicted Thursday on charges of sexually abusing children in Cambodia.

Prosecutors in Florida say 40-year-old Rugh James Cline has been formally charged with five counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place and one count of possessing child exploitation materials.

"If convicted, Cline faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison for each count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place and up to 20 years’ imprisonment for possessing child pornography," the office of U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez, who serves the Middle District of Florida, explained in a statement.

After Cline finishes serving a prison sentence on local charges in Cambodia, he will be deported from that country and brought back to the U.S. to face the justice system here in Florida.

Back in 2019, he was sentenced in a Cambodian courtroom to 2.5 years in prison on charges linked to paying girls for sex during his trips to the country. He had pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say Cline went to Cambodia in February and May 2019 and paid to sexually abuse four different children. 

A nonprofit group that investigates suspected foreign pedophiles in Cambodia previously said three girls told investigators Cline paid them a total of $120. In 2019, the Cambodian court ordered him to pay $3,750 in compensation to each of them.

Cline had "materials depicting the sexual abuse of children" when he traveled, according to prosecutors.

The FBI, U.S. Department of State and Cambodian National Police worked jointly on the American case, which is being brought forward as part of the Department of Justice's nationwide Project Safe Childhood initiative to combat sexual abuse and exploitation.

Cline was a licensed-attorney at the time of the alleged crimes. According to state records, he graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 2010 and was admitted to the Florida Bar in November of that year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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