An Australian has been sentenced to life in prison for operating a cybersex den and sexually abusing children in Cebu.
Drew Frederick Shobbrook was found guilty of four counts of ‘qualified trafficking in persons’ at the Cebu Regional Trial Court today (Tuesday, February 20).
As well as the life sentence, he has also been ordered to pay a fine of two million pesos.
He was also convicted of possession of child pornography with intent to sell or distribute, and sentenced to a further 20 years with an additional fine of one million pesos.
His co-accused, Leslie Ann Fernandez, his Filipina partner, was sentenced to one life term after she was also found guilty of qualified trafficking.
Shobbrook was arrested in 2013 at his apartment in Cebu City apartment after four underage girls filed a complaint saying they had been sexually exploited.
NBI operatives rescued 15 girls, all minors, during the subsequent raid. They also recovered sex toys, used condoms, sex pills and computers containing footage of sexual abuse that had taken place within his apartment.
Shobbrook and Fernandez were accused of recruiting the girls and selling videos of them on the internet.
The girls said they were promised payment and educational support if they worked for Shobbrook.
However, Shobbrook sexually abused the girls and sold footage of these acts on the internet. The girls also claimed they were also offered to other foreigners for sex.
A separate trial is ongoing at the Lapu Lapu City Court for charges of witness tampering against Vanessa Monte Alto and three ‘John Does’.
Prosecutors allege Shobbrook used the defendants to bribe the witnesses to not testify against him. These alleged accomplices face 15-year sentences if found guilty.
The International Justice Mission (IJM), a non-government organisation which helps victims of sex trafficking, helped to bring Shobbrook to justice.
John Tanagho, IJM’s field office director in Cebu, said: “Today’s convictions send a strong message that if you sexually abuse and exploit Filipino children online and create child pornography you will be convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
“Whether Filipino or foreigner, all perpetrators of human trafficking for online sexual exploitation of children should be held accountable under Philippine law.”