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Man charged in U.S. for child sex crimes abroad

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(CNN) -- Marking the first case of its kind, a federal grand jury in Seattle, Washington, indicted a 69-year-old man Wednesday for traveling abroad to engage in illicit sex with young boys.

Prosecutors charged Michael Lewis Clark with traveling from Seattle to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and engaging in sexual activities with boys aged 10 and 13. Although the indictment lists only two explicit sexual episodes, federal authorities said Clark may have molested as many as 40 to 50 children over the past several years.

The legal significance of the case is the government's first use of a provision of the "Protect Act" signed into law by President Bush just five months ago.

The legislation received much fanfare because it expanded the Amber Alert system, which enables travelers to assist in spotting kidnapped children. But another part of the law makes it a federal crime to engage in illegal sexual conduct in foreign countries. (Full story)

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The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which investigated the case, credited Cambodian authorities with fully cooperating in the case and making the arrest.

Clark is described as a former U.S. military veteran who had made several trips to Cambodia. His last trip was in May; he was arrested in June.

Clark, whose hometown was not known, remains in custody in Seattle pending trial.

The growing issue of combating international sex trafficking and exploitation of women and children has become a priority for many Democratic and Republican lawmakers, as well as the Bush administration.

In his address to the United Nations Tuesday, Bush called for global cooperation to stop international sexual trafficking and sexual predators.

"Those who create these victims and profit from their suffering must be severely punished," Bush said.

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