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Tampa ex-attorney in Cambodian prison for sexual abuse now faces U.S. charges

The 40-year-old man was arrested in Cambodia in 2019. He will stand trial in Tampa after his release there.
Ex-Tampa attorney Rugh James Cline, 40, is serving time in a Cambodian prison for sexually abusing children there, authorities say. He has been indicted for the same allegations in the U.S. by a federal grand jury in Tampa. This photo was taken by Cambodian police after his 2019 arrest there.
Ex-Tampa attorney Rugh James Cline, 40, is serving time in a Cambodian prison for sexually abusing children there, authorities say. He has been indicted for the same allegations in the U.S. by a federal grand jury in Tampa. This photo was taken by Cambodian police after his 2019 arrest there. [ Cambodian National Police ]
Published Feb. 26
Updated Feb. 26

A 40-year-old Tampa man serving time in a Cambodian prison for sexually abusing children there has been indicted for the same allegations in the U.S. by a federal grand jury.

Rugh James Cline was a practicing attorney in Tampa when he traveled to Cambodia and paid to sexually abuse children there in 2019, according to the federal indictment issued Friday in Tampa’s Middle District of Florida.

Cline was arrested in 2019 by Cambodian police, according to the Associated Press. He traveled to Cambodia in February and May 2019, federal prosecutors say, and the girls were under the age of 15. He’s also accused of taking images with him depicting children being sexually abused.

He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison, according to a spokesman for the provincial court in Siem Reap.

His release date has not yet been determined but it will be sometime this year or next, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa. When he is released, Cambodian authorities will deport him to the U.S., officials said.

Then he will stand trial in Tampa federal court on five counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place and one count of possessing child exploitation materials, according to federal prosecutors.

Each count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct carries a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison. The possession of child pornography carries a sentence of up to 20 years.

Cline graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 2010, according to Florida Bar records, and was practicing in Tampa. He is no longer allowed to practice law in Florida, but not because of the arrest. His law license was suspended in November for failing to pay his annual fees, according to Francine Walker, a spokeswoman with the Bar.

When Cambodian police arrested Cline in 2019, the Bar said it launched an investigation into the attorney. That investigation is still open, Walker said. She declined to comment on the investigation.