TAMPA, Fla. – After spending 30 months in a Cambodian prison for sexually abusing four children, a Florida attorney has been deported back to the United States. He now has a prison exposure of up to 170 years stateside if found guilty of child sex crimes.
Rugh James Cline, 40, was indicted by the Department of Justice in February of 2021 — two years after his arrest in Cambodia. According to the indictment, “in February 2019 and May 2019, Cline, a United States citizen and Florida-licensed attorney, traveled to Cambodia. While in Cambodia, Cline paid to sexually abuse four different minors. The indictment also charges Cline with traveling to Cambodia while possessing materials depicting the sexual abuse of children.”
Cline faces five counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place and one count of possession of child exploitation materials, according to the United State Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.
The accused child rapist pleaded not guilty to the charges during his first appearance in federal court in Tampa on June 7. He was released on $100,000 bond last Monday and is currently under home detention at his residence in Tampa with GPS monitoring, the New York Post reported.
All of the child-victims were under the age of 15, according to the news outlet.
If found guilty, Cline could be sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for each count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place, in addition to 20 years for possession of child pornography.
According to The Florida Bar, Cline graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 2010. However, he is not eligible to practice law in Florida due to “delinquent fees.”
The Florida Bar said in 2021 that the DOJ charges stemming from his actions in Cambodia did not impact “his status.” Nevertheless, a separate “disciplinary file” was opened into the matter, Law&Crime reported.
It’s unclear when he last practiced law in Florida.
Cline was sentenced to 30 months in a Cambodian prison after being convicted of his crimes. (Sieme Reap Police)
In 2019, Cline was identified by Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) after the victims revealed to Cambodian law enforcement that the attorney paid $120 to each of the victims for the multiple acts of abuse, WFLA previously reported.
APLE is a non governmental organization that investigates allegations of pedophilia in Cambodia.
The disgraced lawyer was convicted in 2021 for paying to abuse the underage girls. Consequently, he served two and half years in a Cambodian prison and ordered to pay a $200 fine to the court and $3,750 in compensation to each of the child-victims.
“I welcome the verdict, however, the crime of purchase of child prostitution should have been charged as the offender took advantage of the victims, coercing them with money,” APLE’s executive director, Seila Samleang, told the Associated Press in 2019. “This would’ve represented a longer jail sentence.”
Offenders who are convicted of purchasing child prostitutes in Cambodia can face seven to 15 years of incarceration when the victim is younger than 15.
Cline now faces a slew of charges in America for allegedly paying multiple minors to let him sexually abuse them while in Cambodia in 2019. (Rugh J Cline/LinkedIn)
The case stateside was investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the U.S. Department of State, along with cooperation from the Cambodian National Police. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance, which ultimately led to Cline’s deportation back to the U.S.
In recent years, authorities in Cambodia have increased efforts to aggressively investigate and prosecute child sex crimes by visitors due to mounting pressure from various anti-trafficking agencies around the globe, according to the Post.
According to 2022 findings by APLE, there were 102 cases of foreign tourists suspected of pedophilia in 2017, with an additional 89 cases in 2018.