International dragnet led to verdicts in Thai child sex tourism case


The international dragnet that led to this week’s guilty pleas by two men implicated in a “child sex tourism” case began more than 4,000 miles from Mobile.

An affidavit filed by an Immigra tion and Customs Enforcement investigator in New Jersey describes how an investigation that began in Europe in 2005 evolved and eventually made its way to Burgess Lee Burgess and Mitchell Kent Jackson in Alabama.

Burgess and Jackson pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Mobile to a pair of federal charges. According to the U.S. Justice Department, sex tourism is a growing phenomenon, with Americans increasingly searching for young children in Southeast Asian nations.

Citing statistics from the International Labour Organization, the Justice Department reported that in 1998 the nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand derived 2 percent to 14 percent of their gross domestic products from sex tourism.

According to the affidavit filed in New Jersey, Canadian law enforcement officials in 2005 identified child pornography posted online in Norway. Interpol, the France-based organization that promotes cooperation among law enforcement agencies, arrested the offender in Norway the following year and seized his computer.

That computer contained pictures of another man sexually abusing prepubescent boys. The images were stored under a computer file named “Thai)Luv.” Computer forensics experts determined that the pictures had been loaded on the computer in 2000.

From there, investigators set out to try to identify the man in the photos. Background images in the photo, along with airport luggage tags, suggested that they were taken in Thailand, according to the affidavit filed in New Jersey.

Interpol began circulating copies of the suspect’s face worldwide, which produced several leads from the public. Sean Costello, an assistant U.S. attorney in Mobile, said he believes it is just the second time Interpol has made such a widespread appeal for public help identifying images in a child exploitation case.

By May, investigators had attached a name to that face — Wayne Nelson Corliss, a small-time actor from Union City, N.J.