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Child Exploitation

Former Florida teacher sentenced in Chicago for 'sex tourism' in Thailand

CHICAGO — A former Miami, Fla., area teacher was sentenced on Friday to the maximum term of 15 years in prison for traveling overseas to have sex with young boys. The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Northern District of Illinois, and Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Chicago.

Charles Todd Stokes, 49, taught physical education in the Miami-Dade County public school system between 1985 and 1998. In 2002, he traveled to Thailand where he lived for several years to have sex with minors. Stokes was convicted in June 2010 in U.S. District Court in Chicago, following his extradition from Thailand.

Evidence presented at the trial showed that Stokes had sexual conduct with more than 70 boys, most less than 16 years old – half of them were under 12 years old at the time. Two 11-year-old victims traveled to Chicago from Thailand to testify at the trial.

Stokes, who formerly lived in the Miami, Fla., area, was sentenced on July 8 by U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer to the statutory maximum of 15 years in prison. Although federal sentencing guidelines provided for life imprisonment, Stokes' sentence was capped by the statutory maximum of 15 years in effect at the time of his crimes. The maximum sentence has since been increased to 30 years in prison. The case was tried in Chicago because Stokes traveled here from Thailand. At the trail, the jury heard that Stokes traveled overseas with the "significant purpose" of engaging in sex acts with minors.

According to court documents, following a misdemeanor battery conviction in Florida, Stokes believed that he could outsmart and evade the law. When the criminal justice system in Florida and Miami-Dade Public School System caught on to him, he moved his life to Thailand, where he believed that he could continue to have sex with minors with impunity. In Thailand, Stokes believed that he was free from being monitored by the criminal court in Florida, and the terms of his probation. He also believed that he could continue to abuse minors without any criminal consequences.

Stokes began living in Thailand in 2000; he traveled to Chicago in 2001 to renew his visa before returning in 2002. Stokes was arrested in Thailand in 2006, extradited in 2007, and has remained in federal custody since. Additional evidence showed that he possessed thousands of photographs of himself, engaging in sexual conduct with minor boys.

The investigation was conducted jointly between ICE HSI and the Royal Thai Police. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nancy DePodesta and William Ridgway, Northern District of Illinois, prosecuted the case.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.

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.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.