Sun-Sentinel – A Broward (Florida) man who admitted he traveled to South America and had sex with child prostitutes blamed what he called the Colombian culture for tempting and corrupting him when he was sentenced to prison Tuesday.
Dennis De Jesus, 46, of North Lauderdale, pleaded guilty to federal sex tourism and child pornography possession charges earlier this year. He admitted he traveled to Colombia for sex with two girls, ages 14 and 16.
But at his sentencing in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, De Jesus told the judge that he had tried to live a “normal life” but was tempted by “the consenting practices of that people and culture.”
“I got lost and corrupted,” De Jesus told the judge.
“I’ve never set out to hurt anyone … I just made a stupid mistake, that’s all,” De Jesus concluded.
U.S. District Judge James Cohn told De Jesus that a stern punishment was appropriate.
The judge sentenced De Jesus to 15 years in federal prison, followed by 25 years of supervised release. He also ordered De Jesus to undergo sex offender treatment, barred him from having contact with children other than his relatives, and ordered him to register as a sex offender when he is released from prison.
“The victimization of children and the elderly is the most reprehensible of all criminal acts for these are the members of our society who are most vulnerable,” Cohn said in court. “These were girls, ages 14 and 16.”
In April, De Jesus pleaded guilty to two counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place, two counts of enticing or coercing underage girls into sexual activity and one count of possession of child pornography.
He was arrested in October in an international undercover investigation of a sex-trafficking ring that exploited child prostitutes in three cities in Colombia, according to Homeland Security Investigations.
Authorities had received a tip that De Jesus was one of several U.S. citizens who traveled to Colombian resorts to have sex with teen girls.
A male informant, who was working undercover with law enforcement, became Facebook friends with De Jesus, and the two men exchanged instant messages on the social networking website.
De Jesus told the informant that he had sex with underage teen prostitutes and had recorded at least one child pornography video while visiting the country.
The two men used the code word “fresh” to indicate that a girl was under the age of consent.
On Oct. 11, agents searched De Jesus’ home and found a June 2013 video on his computer that showed underage girls engaging in sexual conduct.
Investigators found other videos he had recorded of underage girls wearing lingerie, scanty costumes and masks.
During the search of his home, agents also found 18 costumes and masks that he admitted he planned to bring to the girls on his next trip, which was scheduled for late October. He said he had been traveling to Colombia since 2007.
Agents also found online messages De Jesus exchanged with a 14-year-old girl in 2014, including photographs of costumes and “other presents he intended on taking her as partial payment for the sexual services she was going to provide.”
Law enforcement in Colombia and the U.S. who busted the sex-trafficking ring said they arrested about a dozen Colombians on child sex-trafficking charges. Some of the 55 child victims they rescued were as young as 11.
Some of the victims told investigators they had been drugged with cocaine and ecstasy and forced to perform sexual acts with clients.
Original article can be found at the Sun-Sentinel.com