LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former University of Southern California professor who’s accused of sex crimes involving two children has been deported to the United States after a Mexican citizen recognized his picture in the newspaper and informed the U.S. Embassy, federal authorities said Wednesday.
Walter Lee Williams, 64, will appear in a Los Angeles federal courtroom Thursday to face charges of sexual exploitation of children and traveling abroad for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts with children. He had been placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list Monday.
A tip from a Mexican citizen who saw a photograph in a local newspaper and contacted the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City led to Williams’ arrest by Mexican authorities, said Bill Lewis, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office. The tipster is eligible for the $100,000 reward.
Williams was captured late Tuesday while drinking coffee near a park in the resort town of Playa del Carmen after Mexican authorities created a ruse to lure him to his local coffee shop, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. He was living under a false name, Eimiller said.
Prosecutor Gaspar Armando Garcia Torres said in Cancun, Mexico, that it wasn’t clear how long Williams had been living in Playa del Carmen and that the fugitive also had an address in nearby Cancun, where he was taken and turned over to Mexican immigration officials.
Garcia Torres did not say whether Williams is suspected of committing any crimes in Mexico.
Williams left the resort city of Cancun on Wednesday evening accompanied by two U.S. officials on an LA-bound Virgin America flight.
Evidence indicates that Williams has at least 10 alleged victims including the 14-year-old boys cited in a federal indictment. Investigators believe he has more victims and have not ruled out additional charges in the case, as evidence shows Williams expressed an interest and pursued victims younger than 14, Eimiller said.
Williams’ arrest is the culmination of a two-year investigation that began in 2011 and required federal agents to travel to foreign countries to interview possible victims, witnesses and their families.
A student at the University of Southern California informed authorities that Williams may have targeted young boys for sex, and the Los Angeles Police Department started to investigate. He was questioned at the LA airport upon returning from the Philippines, and on a laptop and a camera authorities found child pornography and evidence he had engaged in sex acts with young boys, said LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore.
In February 2011, within weeks of that airport stop, Williams left the country for Mexico.
Until then, Williams was a tenured professor who taught history, anthropology and gender studies at USC.
“The FBI has informed us that at this time there is no evidence that any of his alleged illegal activities were associated with the university or took place on campus,” the university said in a statement.
A federal arrest warrant was issued for the former Palm Springs, Calif., resident in Los Angeles in April.
The four-count indictment alleges Williams traveled from Los Angeles to the Philippines to engage in sex acts with two 14-year-old boys he met online in 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement Monday.
“He allegedly engaged in sexual activity via Internet webcam sessions with these boys and expressed a desire to visit them in the Philippines to have sex,” it states.
Williams traveled extensively for 25 years throughout Southeast Asia, and specifically the Philippines, according to the FBI. He also lived in Indonesia, Polynesia and Thailand and may have traveled to Peru.
“We’re happy this man is off the street (but) we believe there are other victims who have suffered by this man’s actions and we need to talk with them,” said the LAPD’s Moore.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.