ICE returns fugitive pedophile wanted for child rape and extortion to Belgium

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Belgian man wanted for child rape and extortion in his home country was turned over to authorities in Brussels, Belgium, today by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

ICE agents and officers, assisted by the Marion County Sheriff's Office in Florida, arrested Andy Vertoont, 31, a native of Belgium, at his place of employment in Ocala, Fla., on Nov. 12, 2010. ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents in Orlando had initiated an investigation as a result of a request for assistance from the Belgian Federal Police and the ICE HSI attaché office in Brussels.

Vertoont remained in ICE custody pending his removal to Belgium, where he is wanted on an arrest warrant for the June 2009 rape of a 12 year-old-boy in Belgium. He had been arrested in Belgium and conditionally released prior to his trial. Shortly thereafter, he fled to the United States to avoid prosecution in Belgium.

Vertoont is further accused of extorting 12,000 Euros (approximately $17,000 in U.S. currency) from an individual in Belgium, where he allegedly threatened to physically harm the individual if he did not pay the money.

He was also previously arrested, convicted and sentenced in Belgium in 2001 for raping two children, ages 11 and 12.

Vertoont, escorted by ICE ERO officers, departed Miami International Airport in Miami on Tuesday and was turned over to authorities at the Brussels Airport in Brussels on July 6.

"To those who think they can come to the United States to escape their criminal past – think again," said ICE Director John Morton. "ICE will not allow the United States to be a safe haven for those who have come to our country in an effort to evade prosecution and punishment for crimes they commit in their home country. ICE, along with our law enforcement partners, will use every tool at our disposal to end the sexual exploitation of our children and keep them safe wherever they live."

"Criminals who think that they can use the United States as a sanctuary to avoid justice for monstrous acts committed against children are sadly mistaken." said Brian DeMore, ICE HSI's attaché to Belgium and the European Union. "Law enforcement agencies will continue to work tirelessly across jurisdictions and national borders to protect the world's children from these predators. I commend the collaboration of HSI and our international law enforcement partners – especially the Belgian Federal Police – who assisted in tracking down this child predator so that he can face justice here in Belgium."

Vertoont last entered the United States on Oct. 1, 2009, on a visa waiver not to extend beyond 90 days and he remained in the United States beyond 90 days without authorization. He was ordered removed by an immigration judge on Jan. 10.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.