WASHINGTON, DC — An American expat will spend the rest of his life behind bars for child sexual abuse crimes committed in the Philippines. A Los Angeles federal court handed down the life imprisonment sentence on Monday, May 18, following a lengthy, eight-year battle in the courts to prosecute Stanley Reczko under the PROTECT Act. The PROTECT Act criminalizes sexual abuse of children by a U.S. citizen in a foreign country.
“Stanley Reczko will no longer be able to exploit little girls—in this country or abroad,” says IJM General Counsel Eric Ha. “This case underscores the importance of the PROTECT Act—an exemplary law that ensures there is no safe haven where U.S. citizens can go to sexually exploit children. Perhaps most importantly, Reczko’s sentencing finally brings to conclusion an incredibly long and difficult journey for our client Lyrehs*.”
IJM staff met Lyrehs eight years ago when a government social worker called IJM’s Cebu office to report the 16-year-old girl was being exploited and abused by a middle-aged American man named Stanley Reczko.
Stanley Reczko had started a relationship with Lyrehs, offering her small gifts like clothing and a cell phone. But the relationship became increasingly abusive and destructive as Reczko forced her to pose for explicit photos.
A quick internet search after that first meeting revealed Reczko was already a convicted sex offender—he had been found guilty of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl in New York. IJM took the case to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations (formerly called “ICE”), and the Philippine authorities issued an arrest warrant.
Seeking Justice Under the Protect Act
Reczko was arrested and deported in 2007, and he was immediately taken into custody to face charges under the PROTECT Act. Though he has been in custody since, the trial was stalled until this year. Reczko constantly filed motions, switched from lawyer to lawyer, and eventually decided to represent himself. Earlier this year, several witnesses were called to testify in Los Angeles—including three IJM staff and the survivor, Lyrehs.
IJM social worker Stella was one of the staff who traveled to Los Angeles to take part in the trial.
“The parents were always scared at first, always anxious, always watchful. Coming here [to testify in the trial in California] those feelings came back,” says Stella. “They were really angry at what [Reczko] did to their daughter. The good thing is they have always been supportive of their daughter, always doing things for her, always standing for her, and wanting to seek justice.”
Freedom from Fear
Stella added how remarkable Lyrehs has been throughout the prolonged case. Lyrehs is now a committed mother to her 2-year-old daughter, and her partner is an engineer. The couple has aspirations to help Lyrehs go back to school for more education. Coming to California earlier this year to participate in the trial demonstrated her sustained committed to seeking justice for herself—and to stop Reczko from harming any others.
“Cases like Reczko’s send a clear message that sex offenders simply cannot skirt the law by going overseas to exploit and abuse children,” Eric adds. “But as critical as this message is for would-be sex offenders to hear, I hope the victims of these crimes can also hear what the message means for them. It means they are seen, and the crimes perpetrated against them will not be ignored.”