SAN DIEGO (WCMH) – A former student at a Columbus seminary will spend almost 16 years in prison after he admitted to trying to buy babies in Mexico so he could have sex with them.
Joel Wright, 23, pleaded guilty in April to attempted enticement of a minor. The United States District Court, Southern District of California ruled that he is guilty of that charge.
He will be in prison for more 188 months and be supervised for life.
Wright was a former student at the Pontifical College Josephinum.
His arrest in January followed a months-long undercover child sexual exploitation investigation conducted by HSI special agents in San Diego, according to a press release. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.
“This investigation opens a window into a secret world where sexual predators prey on young children around the globe,” said Dave Shaw, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. “Pedophiles who mistakenly believe they can escape justice by committing child sex crimes outside the U.S. should be on notice that HSI will seek to vindicate the rights of those victims regardless where they live. Fortunately, in this instance, our perseverance and diligence prevented the sexual exploitation of yet another innocent victim.”
According to the criminal complaint, after receiving a tip, an undercover HSI special agent took over an email account and began chatting with Wright. Wright believed he was still communicating with a Mexico-based male tour guide he met after placing an online ad.
The HSI says the investigation began in 2015 after a person tipped them off about a previous encounter he had with Wright.
The tipster told HSI that he met Wright in Tijuana in 2014, as Wright was allegedly hoping to adopt a child. Wright allegedly traveled to Tijuana and paid the adoption fee, but the tipster never returned to make the deal.
Last July, Homeland Security investigators say Wright used Craigslist again to find a tour guide in Tijuana. By November, investigators say the conversation turned to Wright expressing his desire to have sex with an infant.
“I have not gone all the way before but I have made it very close in the past so I do have (experience),” he said.
Undercover agents kept the conversations going. They say Wright agreed to travel to Tijuana through San Diego–but a day before that, he decided to stay home.
In late December 2015, Wright is said to have posted a third ad.
During the email chats with the undercover investigator, Wright allegedly stated he wanted to travel to Tijuana to adopt or own a child under 3 years old and have intercourse with the child.
Subsequently, Wright booked his flight to San Diego and made arrangements to meet the friend of a tour guide at Lindberg Field. Investigators allege the plan was for Wright and the tour guide to then travel to a hotel in Tijuana where someone would bring him the female infants. Wright was taken into custody by HSI special agents after his plane landed at Lindberg Field in January.