San Diego

Seminary Student Pleads Guilty to Arranging Sex With Babies in Tijuana

Officials say Joel A. Wright, 23, planned to travel from San Diego to Mexico to have sex with at least three babies

A former Ohio seminary student pleaded guilty Wednesday to trying to adopt and sexually molest infant girls in San Diego.

In the plea agreement, Joel A. Wright, 23, admitted to writing numerous explicit emails where he described how he wanted to sexually assault infants 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," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, in a statement. "There is nothing more important on my agenda than keeping children safe from pedophiles."

An Ohio student studying to be a priest traveled to San Diego Friday seeking sex with infants, according to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. NBC 7’s Omari Fleming reports.

Wright, a former seminary student at Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, posted Craigslist ads starting Nov. 25 seeking a female tour guide, according to the plea. When an unidentified witness replied, 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. 

In a different email to an undercover federal agent, Wright admitted to telling the agent he bought infant pain relief medication and a "pretty outfit" for a 1- or 2-year-old, according to the document. 

Wright flew into San Diego International Airport on Jan. 29 and called the undercover agent to say he had landed, according to the plea agreement. 

Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations met Wright outside baggage claim and took him into custody. 

According to officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Wright had planned to travel from San Diego to Mexico to have sex with at least three babies.

Getty Images
A file photo of Joel A. Wright

He pleaded guilty to one charge of attempted enticement of a minor. In the plea agreement, Wright admitted he had intended to adopt or purchase female infants and toddlers in Tijuana for the purpose of sexually molesting them. 

At his sentencing July 1, Wright faces a maximum penalty of life in prison with a minimum mandatory 10-year sentence, maximum $250,000 fine and lifetime registration as a sex offender. 

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