A 64-year-old man has been accused of traveling abroad from New York to engage in sex acts with a minor.
Following an investigation by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the indictment filed with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York accuses Long Island resident Thomas Blaha, of Garden City, with going 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.
"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 stated 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, Donoghue said.
If convicted, Blaha faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and up to 170 years imprisonment.
"Crimes involving the sexual exploitation of unwitting children are the most heinous and will not be tolerated, regardless of where the sexual acts occur," said Peter C. Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York. "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."
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