Loren Clayton Oulman was like many American expatriates looking for a fresh start in Asia. He ran website ads in Korea and China, offering his services as a teacher or consultant. He lived in Cambodia and traveled to India, Bangkok and Myanmar, searching for opportunities.

But he is also a convicted sex offender who'd fled Minnesota. Thanks to his Internet ads and a new international initiative, the U.S. Marshals Service captured Oulman in January and, last week, returned him to a cell in Minnesota. He had spent more than a year abroad and been featured on "America's Most Wanted."

Oulman, 72, is one of a several known sex offenders who have fled Minnesota for other countries, according to the Marshals Service -- just some of the thousands across the country who evade monitoring. Investigators hope a new initiative, dubbed "Project Sentinel/Operation Guardian," helps make foreign soil less of a haven for U.S. sex criminals.

"It's about child safety," said Deputy U.S. Marshal Matt Moran, who coordinates sex offender investigations for the Minnesota office. "Here, and in other countries."

Of the estimated 750,000 convicted sex offenders in the United States, as many as 125,000 have failed to register, Moran said.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 makes failure to register a federal crime.

Operation Guardian targets the five most dangerous "noncompliant" sex offenders in each Marshals Service district, as identified by state and local officials.

Oulman had been on the run for nearly two years -- and spent at least a year in Southeast Asia.

"There is quite the trend of these guys fleeing the country," Moran said, adding that two known Minnesota offenders are in Mexico, one is in Canada, another is in Cambodia and one man is believed to have fled to Sweden.

Oulman was particularly brazen about it.

He was first convicted of sexually molesting a juvenile in Anoka County in 1982, officials say. His most recent crime involved using the free Wi-fi at a Roseville Dunn Bros. coffee shop to look at child pornography on his laptop computer.

"I have a tendency to look at inappropriate things," he told the Dunn Bros. manager when confronted, the criminal complaint said.

In April 2008, he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and was sentenced to four months in jail. By September 2008, Oulman was telling his probation officer that he "had no intention of contacting probation," said Bob Pavlak, commander of the Ramsey County Sheriff Apprehension Unit.

And then he was gone.

'He didn't hide very well'

In February 2010, the Marshals Service learned that Oulman was traveling all over Asia. How? His Web postings were one clue.

One ran on a website in Korea: "I CAN TEACH ENGLISH -- DO CONSULTANT WORK -- OR EDUCATE EMPLOYEES IN THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES FOR BUSINESS SUCCESS. Professionalism -- Positive Attitude -- Problem Solving. My name is Loren Oulman."

Another ad was posted in China.

"He didn't hide very well -- or try to hide at all for that matter," Moran said.

Oulman had even adopted children in Asia, officials said. "They call me Dad," he told them later.

In October 2010, U.S. officials went to Phnom Penh and worked with their Cambodian counterparts to pinpoint Oulman's location. In November, "America's Most Wanted" featured him. On Jan. 14, Cambodian police arrested Oulman at a casino in the seaside town of Sihanoukville. Cambodian officials said his sex offenses invalidated his travel documents.

"I think he is a dangerous man who threatens the safety of our children," Samleang Seila, an official with an anti-pedophile organization, told the Phnom Penh Post.

Oulman was extradited and taken to the Los Angeles County jail, where he was locked up for a month before being returned to Minnesota. On Feb. 23, he was incarcerated at the St. Cloud prison.

According to Ramsey County Community Corrections spokesman Christopher Crutchfield, Oulman is scheduled to be released in March 2012.

He will then be on supervised release for 10 more years.

Moran said Marshals Service sex offender investigators tracked down approximately 20,000 fugitive sex offenders in the past year, criminals wanted for sexual assaults, sex offender registration violations and other crimes.

Tracking sex offenders who flee overseas "is a real focus for us," Moran said. "We have the resources. And, more and more, we have the cooperation of other countries."

James Walsh • 612-673-7428