The investigation leading to the arrest of William Lee Pait Jr., 46, of Bladenboro, was conducted by HSI, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, which provided invaluable assistance including forensic analysis of the computers, and the Pueblo Police Department in Colorado.
"These crimes had a deep impact on our district and reached well beyond our borders. I am grateful for the cooperation shown by the multiple state and federal law enforcement agencies that coordinated beautifully to reach this result. This threat cannot be combatted without our working together," stated U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker.
Pait was named in an indictment filed June 5, 2012, charging him with three counts of online enticement of a child to engage in illegal sexual conduct, one count of kidnapping, one count of production of child pornography, one count of possession of child pornography and four counts of committing sex offense while registered as a sex offender. Pait pleaded guilty April 8 to the production of child pornography charge.
According to the investigation, Pait had engaged in a long-term pattern of conduct in which he would pose as a teenage boy and attempt to seduce girls between the ages of 12 and 15. On two occasions, this led Pait to persuade a child to meet him on a street corner late at night or in the early morning hours. In the first case, which occurred in 2002, the mother of the child became aware of the arranged meeting and called police, who arrested Pait. As a result of this offense, he was given a brief prison sentence and required to register as a sex offender. In the second instance, which occurred in 2007, Pait attempted to abduct another child, who he grabbed from behind and tried to drag into his truck. The victim fought off her attacker and called police. Police quickly identified Pait as the assailant.
As the investigation continued, investigators learned that Pait had reached out to numerous other girls in and around Bladen, Robeson and Cumberland counties under his false persona in an effort to engage in sexual acts with them or solicit production of sexually explicit images of the girls. Investigators also learned that Pait had persuaded children to produce and participate in sexually explicit videos online, which he recorded live and saved.
"While the Internet has improved the lives of millions, it is an unfortunate truth that modern technology has extended the reach of child predators searching for new victims," said Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of HSI Atlanta. "The defendant in this case repeatedly took advantage of children to satisfy his perverse desires. With this sentence, his victims can rest assured that he will never again be able to abuse another child."
Nicholson oversees HSI activities in Georgia and the Carolinas.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI 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. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.