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Child Exploitation
07/01/2016

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Former Ohio seminary student sentenced to more than 15 years for attempting to buy children in Mexico for sex

SAN DIEGO – A former Ohio seminary student was sentenced Friday to 188 months in federal prison for attempting to adopt or purchase female infants and toddlers in Tijuana in order to sexually molest them, following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Joel Alexander Wright, 23, appeared in federal court Friday morning. In addition to the prison term, the judge also imposed the added condition that Wright will be subject to lifetime supervision. In sentencing the defendant, U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw noted Wright held himself out as someone who was kind and thoughtful when all the while he was plotting a heinous crime.

In his plea agreement, Wright admitted he was the author of numerous sexually explicit emails in which he described to a cooperating witness and an undercover HSI special agent how he intended to sexually assault various children in Mexico, from infants up to 4 years old.

“This defendant represents the darkest of demons,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “His attempted crime was unthinkable. I applaud our law enforcement partners for stopping Wright in his tracks, and for all their efforts to keep children safe from individuals who have a sexual interest in children, both here in the United States and abroad.”

Beginning in November of 2015, Wright placed ads on Craigslist Tijuana purporting to seek a female tour guide. When he received a response from a cooperating witness, he confided that he wanted to “adopt/own a baby girl (under the age of 3) and I want to have intercourse with her after I own her but don’t be telling people that…I won’t pay until I have seen the baby and I will pay the parents then…the cheapest baby under 3 would be good.”

In another email with an undercover federal agent, Wright admitted that he wrote he had “picked up an infant pain relief med and a pretty outfit which I think should fit the 1 or 2 year old.” He emailed that he “will try to find some lube here at the store that we can use.” He also wrote that he had purchased an American Airlines ticket to travel from Ohio to San Diego on Jan. 29, arriving at 11:30 a.m.

“The circumstances of this case were unspeakable, but today’s sentence assures this individual won’t pose a threat to children any time in the near future,” said Dave Shaw, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. “HSI is committed to using all available resources and tools at our disposal to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation. We’re particularly gratified we were able to intervene before any victims were harmed.”

On Jan. 29, Wright landed at San Diego International Airport and called the undercover HSI special agent’s number to advise he had arrived. Wright was carrying two cell phones and a duffle bag. Inside the bag investigators found baby clothes, sleep aids, bottles, toys, candy, and lubricant. Wright was taken into custody by HSI special agents and has remained in federal custody since that time.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 07/05/2016