AMERICAN COURT DOCUMENTS SHOW THAT APLE DIRECTOR SEILA SAMLEANG IS A PAID CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANT FOR THE FBI, AND THE FBI BRIBES CAMBODIAN POLICE OFFICERS WHO ARREST AMERICAN CITIZENS
Earlier this year, American Daniel Stephen Johnson was sentenced by a court in the United States to life in prison for sexually assaulting children at Home of Hope, the unlicensed orphanage he ran in Cambodia.
Johnson’s arrest in Cambodia was the result of a coordinated effort among the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Cambodian police, and the non-governmental organization Action Pour Les Enfants (“APLE”). According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, a warrant was issued for Johnson’s arrest in 2013 in an unrelated case in the state of Oregon. The FBI worked with the U.S. Department of State to revoke Johnson’s passport based on the Oregon warrant. The FBI then sought to locate Johnson in Cambodia.
On December 9, 2013, at the direction of the FBI, and with the assistance of APLE, Cambodian police officers found and arrested Johnson for an “immigration violation” due to his revoked passport. Cambodian officials then interviewed children at Johnson’s orphanage and charged Johnson with child sex offenses in Cambodia. Johnson was convicted by a Cambodian court of performing indecent acts against children and sentenced to a year in prison.
Following his release from prison in Cambodia, Johnson was escorted back to the U.S. by the FBI and prosecuted under the PROTECT Act, which criminalizes sex crimes against children committed by Americans in foreign countries.
Johnson was tried in the U.S. District Court of Oregon in May 2018. The government presented testimony from Cambodian orphans who said that Johnson raped them. The jury found Johnson guilty, and the court sentenced him to life imprisonment for his crimes.
The FBI admits it pays thousands of dollars to the Director of APLE for assistance in arresting Americans
Court filings and transcripts from the criminal proceedings against Johnson in the U.S. reveal interesting information about the level of “cooperation” between the FBI, APLE, and the Cambodian police in investigating Johnson and other Americans.
At a pretrial hearing in Oregon, FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Yesensky testified that APLE Director Seila Samleang is a “confidential human source” for the FBI.
According to Special Agent Yesensky, FBI records show that it paid Mr. Seila about $29,000 from 2010 to 2015, to encourage and reward assistance from APLE in investigating people that the FBI wanted investigated.
Special Agent Yesensky testified that about a month before Johnson’s arrest, but unrelated to the Johnson matter, he personally directed a $5,000 wire transfer from a bank near the FBI office in Los Angeles to an account in Mr. Seila’s control.
Yesensky also testified that after Johnson’s arrest, Mr. Seila “may have been compensated financially,” but Ysenseky did not know the details because he was not “handling” Mr. Seila as a confidential informant after Johnson’s arrest.
After reading Special Agent Yesensky’s testimony, I reached out to Mr. Seila by email to ask him if the FBI pays him or APLE for information about Americans who may be abusing children in Cambodia. Mr. Seila responded with this curious non-answer:
“I can only say that we closely collaborate with international law enforcement agencies and provide information that concerns their citizens on suspicion of sexual abuse of minors in Cambodia.
With the FBI in particular, we have had the same level of cooperation as that with others and been providing them with information that concerns a US citizen suspected of child sexual abuse. Our cooperation has secured a number of successful prosecutions in both Cambodia and the US. For other matters, I’m afraid you have to talk to the Embassy or FBI directly. I’m not in a position to comment.”
It’s odd that Mr. Seila says he’s “not in a position to comment” on whether the FBI pays him thousands of dollars for assistance arresting Americans. Who else would know this better than Mr. Seila?
APLE donors likely expect that Mr. Seila will direct APLE’s resources in an objective, unbiased, and cost-effective manner towards the highest priority cases, helping the greatest number of children in Cambodia, and helping the children who are in greatest danger. Is Mr. Seila acting true to APLE’s overall mission, or is he disproportionately directing APLE’s resources towards targeting Americans, because he personally gets cash bonuses from the FBI when an American is arrested?
Mr. Seila says that APLE’s relationship with the FBI is similar to its relationships with other law enforcement agencies. Does that mean that other foreign governments also pay Mr. Seila when APLE investigations lead to the arrest of their citizens?
Why are these FBI payments even necessary? It’s presumably Mr. Seila’s job as APLE’s Director to investigate pedophiles and cooperate with law enforcement agencies who seek to prosecute them. What does Mr. Seila do differently when the FBI promises or pays him $5,000? If the FBI didn’t pay Mr. Seila thousands of dollars, would he withhold APLE’s cooperation in investigating Americans who might prey on Cambodian children?
I guess it’s possible that the FBI really intends the payments to Mr. Seila to be donations to APLE, and that Mr. Seila has turned over all these payments to APLE’s coffers, for the benefit of the organization. If so, Mr. Seila could have said that. Agent Yesensky did not say these were cash payments to APLE, he said that were payments to Seila Samleang, a “confidential” human resource.
APLE provides a list of donors on its website, and the FBI is not on that list. Assuming this is indeed a “side hustle” by Mr. Seila, where he just lines his pockets with the FBI’s money whenever APLE assists in arresting an American, is APLE’s Board of Directors aware of this?
The FBI admits it bribes Cambodian cops to arrest Americans
Court records from the Johnson case also reveal that Mr. Seila is not the only Cambodian whom the FBI pays for assistance in arresting Americans. According to Agent Yesensky, three days after Johnson was arrested, Yesensky met with Cambodian National Police officials and paid about $365 for the assistance they had provided on the day of Johnson’s arrest. Yesensky testified that this payment was intended to compensate approximately 35 police officers about $10 each for their personal costs incurred in helping to arrest Mr. Johnson.
Yesensky testified that it is common for the FBI to pay all the Cambodian officers involved in arresting an American. So if you’ve ever wondered why Cambodian crime scene photos often show dozens of local police officers crammed into the dingy apartments of Western pedophiles pointing at things, this may be the reason.
Of course, if I wanted someone arrested in Cambodia, and I paid hundreds of dollars to Cambodian police officers to make that happen, this would probably be considered “bribery.” Imagine if the government of Cambodia wanted a Cambodian arrested in the USA, something that might be a low priority for American police officers. So they offer cash payments to dozens of American cops and FBI agents to divert their attention from their highest priority cases on behalf of American taxpayers and to re-direct their efforts to tracking down a fugitive from Cambodian law. Any corrupt American cop or FBI agent who accepted such payments would be fired from his job and could be prosecuted under 18 USC § 201, the federal anti-bribery statute.
It doesn’t matter that the FBI pays out only ten dollars to each Cambodian officer for every arrested American. That’s equal to about a day’s pay for a Cambodian cop. It’s analogous to a bunch of New York City cops all taking payments of $200 each from an interested party after making an arrest. It’s generally not a convincing defense to a bribery charge to say “but the police officer I bribed is underpaid and I was just helping to pay the expenses of doing his job.”
Another troubling aspect of the FBI paying APLE and Cambodian police to conduct investigations and make arrests is that this allows the FBI to circumvent constitutional safeguards that American citizens would otherwise enjoy. Americans being investigated by the FBI have a right to due process, right to counsel, right to freedom from self-incrimination and right to be free from unreasonable, warrantless searches and seizures.
If the FBI pays a foreign police officer to investigate or make an arrest, many of these constitutional safeguards no longer apply. A good way to increase the number of false or unjustified arrests of Americans in Cambodia or any foreign country is to offer cash payments to NGOs and local police officers for arresting American citizens.
American law enforcement officers working from the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia should be setting an example for local police about how to to do their jobs with integrity and without the expectation of payment in exchange for arresting criminals or solving crimes. The FBI shouldn’t be giving backhanders to local cops to grease the wheels of cooperation in arresting Americans. It’s a sleazy practice and it undermines American objectives of reducing corruption in Cambodia and other developing countries.