Peru arrests American accused of running child sex tourism ring

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian authorities arrested an American man charged with running a child sex tourism ring out of Lima for the past 10 years and rescued 11 victims aged between 4 and 17, police said on Monday.

The arrest of Joshua Brown, 64, along with five accomplices, was the first major bust of a child sex trafficking operation allegedly led by a foreigner in the South American country in recent years.

Police said they were now investigating the "probable" murder of two children related to the case.

Brown was in police custody and could not be reached for comment on Monday. Authorities said he did not have an attorney.

Police discovered the criminal network online, in which they said Brown was offering visitors sex with children for fees starting at $500. Young women who worked with Brown lured the children, sometimes traveling to poor parts of Peru to seek victims, they said.

"He had a legitimate business in Peru and a parallel dark life trafficking people to exploit sexually," General Oscar Gonzales, the head of the police unit tasked with human trafficking, told Reuters. "He would bring foreign pedophiles here whom he contacted through the private Internet forum."

Police said they seized a stash of child pornography videos and also rescued some 25 adult victims of human trafficking in simultaneous stings over the weekend.

Police also accused Brown, whom investigators dubbed "the beast," of having sex with children.

It was not immediately known when Brown would appear in court.

Police said they would hold a news conference on the case on Thursday.

It is unclear if the United States might seek to prosecute Brown, who was born in New Hampshire, under extraterritorial laws aimed at curbing child sex abuse.

Peru has lagged behind in efforts to halt human trafficking, with no convictions of complicit public officials last year, according to the U.S. State Department.

But the government has boosted staffing for anti-trafficking police and prosecutors in recent years.

Outside of Lima, the Amazonian city of Iquitos and the highland region Cusco are major sex tourism destinations. Trafficking also takes place near illegal gold mines in remote jungle regions.

(Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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