Joel A Wright, above, who was studying to be a Catholic priest at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, was arrested on federal charges on Friday, accused of trying to travel to Mexico to sexually assault infant girls.
According to this report, Wright, 23, was arrested by US Immigration and Homeland Security investigators in San Diego on two federal charges of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.
Wright, 23, was expelled from the Josephinum on Friday morning because he had left school without permission, said the Rev. John Allen, a spokesman for the school. Said Allen in a statement posted on the college website on Friday:
The Pontifical College Josephinum was shocked and saddened to learn today of the alleged criminal actions and alleged criminal intentions of former student Joel Wright. Such actions are both heinous and reprehensible.
As a Roman Catholic institution actively committed to the protection of all God’s children, we are eager to lend our full cooperation to the civil authorities responsible for investigating and pursuing justice in these matters.
Wright had been at the school for a semester, Allen said.
Federal agents first learned in July 2014 that Wright had paid a person in Tijuana, Mexico, to adopt a child with the intent of having sex with a female baby. The child was never delivered to him, court records say.
In recent weeks, Wright had been exchanging emails with a person he thought was a tour guide but actually was a federal agent. He stated that he wanted to adopt or own a baby girl younger than three and talked in the email of planning to rape her. Other emails also stated Wright’s intent to shoot video of the assaults, court records say.
This report says Wright is expected to be arraigned on Monday.
Dave Shaw, special agent in charge of Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego, said in a statement:
Pedophiles who mistakenly believe they can escape justice by committing child sex crimes outside the US should be on notice that HSI will seek to vindicate the rights of those victims regardless of 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, an undercover ICE agent received a tip that prompted the agent to take over an email account and begin corresponding with Wright.
The suspect believed he was still communicating with a Mexico-based male tour guide whom he had met after placing an ad on Craigslist. Wright later booked a flight from Ohio and made arrangements to meet the friend of a tour guide at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field. He was allegedly planning to travel across the border with the tour guide to a Tijuana hotel, where he would meet the female infants.
The investigation was conducted as part of ICE’s Operation Predator, launched in 2003 and described by the agency as “an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators.” Since the operation’s inception, federal investigators have arrested more than 12,000 individuals for crimes against children.