TORONTO - An American man who travelled to Canada to have sex with a 13-year-old girl who had sent him nude videos could be jailed for up to 50 years, according to his written plea agreement.
Authorities in Santa Ana, Calif., said Paul Binh Do, 29, was taken into federal custody this week after signing a plea deal involving two charges: travelling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and being in receipt of child pornography.
Court documents show Do — who was then 26 — began communicating with M.F., 13, of Calgary, in September 2013 when she posted online that she wanted to meet guys. The two pursued their contact via social media and text messaging, and he asked her to be his girlfriend.
They also exchanged nude and sexually explicit photos and videos, and he persuaded her to engage in "prohibited sexual conduct," according to the agreed statement of facts in the plea agreement.
Despite knowing her age, Do flew to Calgary in May 2014 to have sex with M.F. on what would have been her 14th birthday, but was arrested on arrival by Canadian authorities, who found explicit images of the girl on his computer and phones.
Do, of Garden Grove, Calif., told immigration officials he was planning to visit another 22-year-old woman in Calgary he had met online, the documents show.
After his arrest, he contacted M.F. and the other woman with the aim of obstructing justice, the documents show. Among other things, he urged M.F. to lie that she had told him she was actually 16 years old, and wanted the other woman to say he was in town to meet her for coffee.
Do will be required to register as a sex offender, take part in sex-offender programming, stay away from the victim and other children and not access any child pornography as part of the plea deal.
In a statement this week, U.S. authorities praised the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency, and Calgary police for helping save the girl from further harm.
"All forms of child exploitation are deeply troubling, and this case demonstrates how quickly online child exploitation can lead to physical exploitation," U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said.
"If not for the timely intervention of law enforcement here and in Canada, a greater tragedy would almost certainly have occurred."
Do is scheduled to formally enter his plea in court at the end of the month, his lawyer said Wednesday. It's not clear when he might be sentenced, but the agreement waives his right to appeal any prison sentence under nine years.
The investigation by U.S. Homeland Security was part of an international initiative begun in 2003 — dubbed "Operation Predator" — aimed at protecting children from sexual predators.
The initiative has resulted in the arrest of more than 14,000 people for crimes against children since it began, U.S. authorities said. Last year alone, they said, agents arrested close to 2,400 individuals and identified or rescued 1,000 victims.
Joseph Macias, a special agent in Los Angeles, said child sexual predators who believe they can escape detection by boarding an airplane to victimize minors outside the U.S. will be hunted down and held to account for their "reprehensible behaviour."