A former Ohio seminary student who pleaded guilty to trying to adopt and buy baby girls in Mexico so he could sexually molest them was sentenced in San Diego Friday to more than 15 years behind bars.
In April, Joel Alexander Wright, 23, admitted to seeking sex with infants he wanted to adopt from Tijuana. He will serve 188 months in federal custody, the office of U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy, of the Southern District, confirmed.
At Wright's sentencing, U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw also imposed the added condition of lifetime supervision.
In his plea agreement, Wright admitted he had written numerous explicit emails in which he described, in graphic detail, his desire to sexually assault girls under the age of 4 in Mexico.
“There are no words to describe the horror that might have happened, had an innocent baby been placed in this man’s arms,” Duffy said in a statement in April.
Wright, a former seminary student at Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, had plans of becoming a priest.
At his sentencing, Judge Sabraw noted that in his role as a seminary student, Wright held himself out as someone kind, thoughtful and trustworthy, when all the while he plotted a heinous crime.
"This defendant represents the darkest of demons," Duffy said Friday. "His attempted crime was unthinkable. I applaud our law enforcement partners for stopping Wright in his tracks, and for all their efforts to keep children safe from individuals who have a sexual interest in children both here in the United States and abroad.”
On Nov. 25, 2015, investigators said Wright began posting ads on Craigslist seeking a female tour guide in Mexico, according to his guilty plea.
When an unidentified witness replied to his ads, he told the witness he wanted to “adopt/own a baby girl (under the age of 3)” and have sexual intercourse with her, according to the plea agreement.
According to court documents, Wright also communicated via email with an undercover agent. In an email with the investigator, Wright said he had purchased infant pain relief medication and a “pretty outfit” for a 1- or 2-year-old in anticipation of a would-be encounter with the child.
On Jan. 29, 2016, Wright flew into the San Diego International Airport. There, he called the undercover agent with whom he had been emailing and told him he had landed in San Diego. Wright thought the agent was going to help him get to Mexico and did not realize he had been communicating with someone in law enforcement.
Wright had two cell phones and a duffel bag. Inside, the bag agents found baby clothes, sleep aids, bottles, toys, candy and lubricant, prosecutors said.
Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations approached Wright outside the airport’s baggage claim area and arrested him on the spot.
According to officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Wright had planned to travel from San Diego to Mexico to have sex with at least three babies. He pleaded guilty to one charge of attempted enticement of a minor.
Wright will have to register as a lifetime sex offender.