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June 19, 2020New York, NYUnited StatesChild Exploitation

New York man charged for traveling abroad for sex acts with minor

NEW YORK – A Garden City, New York, man was charged Friday, following an investigation by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York. The indictment filed with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York charges Thomas Blaha, 64, with traveling to the Philippines with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, sexual exploitation of a child, distribution of child pornography and possession of child pornography.

"It's alleged Blaha made trips to the Philippines to sexually abuse a 13-year old female who was being exploited for money," said Peter C. Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of HSI New York. "Crimes involving the sexual exploitation of unwitting children are the most heinous and will not be tolerated, regardless of where the sexual acts occur. HSI is a global investigative agency, and with our resources and partnerships with the United States Attorney's Office, we will stop at nothing to put an end to child victimization worldwide."

"The defendant allegedly traveled halfway across the globe to sexually exploit a minor that he had enticed through Facebook and create child pornography," stated United States Attorney, Richard P. Donoghue. "The Department of Justice is committed to protecting children from online predators by identifying such offenders and prosecuting them to the full extent of the law."

According to court filings, in September and October 2019, Blaha traveled from New York to the Philippines to engage in sexual activity with a 13-year-old female in exchange for money. Blaha also enticed the victim to produce sexually explicit images of herself and send them to him in exchange for money. As further set forth in court filings, in December 2019, search warrants were obtained in the Eastern District of New York for Blaha's Facebook account as well as his residence in Garden City, New York and electronic devices. The searches revealed hundreds of images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

The charges in the indictment are allegations only, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, Blaha faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and up to 170 years imprisonment. The government's case is being handled by the EDNY's General Crimes Section.

HSI works in partnership with NCMEC and other federal, state, and local agencies to help solve cases and rescue sexually exploited children. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to NCMEC via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2423 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.

Updated: 11/27/2020