Los Angeles, California - A federal grand jury indicted a British man Tuesday on federal charges stemming from a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) that allegedly revealed he travelled to the Coachella Valley in late January to engage in illicit sexual conduct with boys who were 10 and 12 years old.
Paul Charles Wilkins, 70, of Littleport in East Cambridgeshire, England, who had dual United States-United Kingdom citizenship, is charged with one count of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and one count of attempted sex trafficking of children.
While the first count of the indictment relates to Wilkins' travel to the U.S. to allegedly have sex with two pre-teen boys, the attempted sex trafficking charge stems from a deal he allegedly brokered with an HSI undercover investigator in which he purportedly paid $250 to have sex with a 9-year-old boy at an apartment he had rented in Palm Springs.
"My office is committed to protecting children from predators – whether the predators are foreign or domestic," said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. "When this defendant's original plan was thwarted, he made other arrangements to sexually abuse a child. He must be held accountable for these crimes."
Wilkins was arrested Feb. 11 at his rented apartment after paying the money to an undercover operative. He was charged in a criminal complaint that remains under seal and was ordered held without bond. Wilkins is scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court March 4.
"This case serves as a strong reminder that the abuse of children in the U.S. by citizens of any country is an unconscionable crime that will not be tolerated," said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "Pedophiles who mistakenly believe they can escape detection by traveling to countries other than their own to commit child sex crimes should be on notice that HSI will use all the resources at its disposal to combat this reprehensible behavior and seek justice for the victims."
The charge of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct carries a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years. The charge of attempted sex trafficking of children carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and statutory maximum penalty of life without parole.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 14,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2015, nearly 2,400 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.