The chilling reality of sex tourism
Undercover sting by U.S. law enforcement offered secure travel to Canada to molest children – and led to several arrests
It seems Canada is exotic enough and safe enough that sex tourists are willing to risk travelling here on the promise that a child is ready and willing to serve their every need.
That was the premise behind using Canada as the destination for an unusual sting operation run for 19 months by American law enforcement agencies, according to Brian Moskowitz, the special agent in charge.
The chilling part for Canadians should be that the operation worked and that it worked so well.
From September 2009 to March 2011, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and Postal Service agents ran a fake website called Precious Treasure Holiday Co., which offered secure travel from Cleveland to Canada to engage in sex with children as young as eight.
During that time, the website had 140,000 hits, and it resulted in four men being caught and convicted.
“Canada made for a more plausible scenario,” Moskowitz said in a telephone interview from Detroit.
“It was never our intent to take anyone to Canada and no children were involved. It was merely part of a scenario that we built.”
He went on to say, “It’s not that Canada has a perceived weakness or vulnerability.”
It may not now, but it used to. Before the age of sexual consent was raised in 2008 to 16 from 14, Canada was a favourite destination for so-called sex tourists, according to Bangkokbased ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes).
It also didn’t help that since Canada’s sex tourism laws were passed in 1997, there have been only three convictions. The most recent was in July 2010, when a Burnaby art dealer, Kenneth Klassen, was sentenced to 11 years in jail. Sex tourist is the rather jaunty name given to predators who travel to gain access to children. These days, most use the Internet to arrange their travel so that finding them is difficult. And proactive investigations like the one Moskowitz led that are aimed at preventing predators from abusing children are rare, but effective.
Two Germans and two Americans were caught in the sting. Each paid up to $1,600 to have sex with fictional Canadian children either in Canada or after they were trafficked into the United States. Those men believed it was safe to not only have sex with children as young as eight, but to take pictures or video of the assaults.
All four have been convicted. One is already serving a 20-year prison term; the others are awaiting sentencing.
What they planned to do is not only criminal, it’s horrifying. How they prepared for it is grotesque.
Peter Beichl, a 49-year-old doctor from Albstadt, Germany, paid $1,150 to spend eight hours with an 11-yearold girl in a hotel room. He paid extra to have the encounter videotaped.
When he arrived in Cleveland in March, Beichl had lingerie, sex toys, bondage ropes, straps, a mask, lubricant, condoms and a bottle of sedatives in his suitcase.
“If she should be scared, I could bring some short-acting, slight sedative, which is doing no harm,” Beichl wrote in an email to an undercover agent before he left home.
Beichl also brought four stuffed unicorns and a unicorn paint-by-number set. He’d been told the little girl he planned to molest liked unicorns.
He pleaded guilty on Aug. 15 to two counts of attempted sex trafficking and travelling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. A sentencing date hasn’t been set.
Otto Linzenbach, 63, of Leipzig, paid $1,600 cash to have sex with two children – a boy and a girl. In his first email to undercover officers, he requested photos of available girls aged 10 to 13. Later, Linzenbach mailed a $100 deposit for a boy and a girl after finding out what sex acts they would do with each other and with him, and confirming that he could videotape the encounter.
He will be sentenced Oct. 25 for attempted sex trafficking, attempted exploitation of children and travelling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.
Jonathan Waltman, 25, a registered sex offender, couldn’t go to Canada because he was still on parole, having been convicted of molesting his girlfriend’s 10-year-old sister in 2004.
So, instead of going to Canada, the Ohio man believed he had paid to have sex with an eight-year-old Canadian girl in Detroit. He paid extra to have photos taken.
As he was driving to Detroit with an undercover agent, Waltman bragged about downloading child pornography, removing his computer’s hard drive and hiding it in the basement so his parole officer could not find it.
The hard drive was subsequently recovered. Waltman has not been charged with possession of child pornography, but he pleaded guilty to attempted sex trafficking of minors and will be sentenced Nov. 15.
Another Ohio man – Zachary Casey, 38 – is already serving his 20-year sentence for attempting to travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct with an eightyear-old girl and attempted receipt and distribution of child pornography.
While Casey was travelling by car with an undercover agent, he bragged of twice having had sex with two other children.
For the most part, the United States, like Canada, catches sex tourists more by accident than design.
In most cases, Moskowitz said, what normally happens is a border or postal officer finds pornographic images either on a laptop or in a package. Often those images include the predators abusing children in well-known destinations such as Thailand, Cambodia or Costa Rica.
(Sex tourists are almost always men, but Moskowitz said women also have been arrested and convicted. That’s part of what makes these investigations so difficult. There is no profile for sexual predators, according to Moskowitz. They come from every income bracket, every profession and trade and span almost every age group.) Launching a proactive investigation was not without its obstacles.
An early one was “deconfliction” – as Moskowitz put it – so that other enforcement agencies wouldn’t waste time chasing after Precious Treasure; Canadian officials (including local police in Windsor, Ont.) and other American agencies had to be notified.
“We know where pedophiles lurk in the cyber world,” Moskowitz said. “So we went there and cast the net.”
To attract pedophiles, the Precious Treasure’s home page had symbols and coded language known to predators and undercover agents, then promoted the travel services on bulletin boards and other sites frequented by pedophiles.
To avoid people stumbling on its explicit content (photographs and the offer to provide children) and avoid accusations of entrapment, that content could only be accessed after repeated emails to the undercover agents.
Still, Moskowitz said: “We kept getting shut down because of complaints and we had to restart and rename it. But if anything, it gave us more credibility.”
In March, yet another web-hosting company shut down the site. But this time, The Smoking Gun website “outed” Precious Treasure as a Homeland Security operation, noting that it had “fallen victim to its own sleazy, overt come-on.”
Even though people continued emailing Precious Treasure, the two-year operation was shut down. The outing was a “significant part” of that decision, said Moskowitz, who added: “I can’t fathom the logic of why someone would give the opportunity to pedophiles to continue to hunt their prey.”
Only a global effort will stop child predators, especially with roughly 100,000 terabytes of information readily available on the Internet.
Because, as Moskowitz said, “We just can’t put our arms around every kid and shield them as much as we’d like.”