Police arrested an Oxnard man Thursday night as he allegedly bargained for the purchase of a 3-year-old for sex acts from an undercover policewoman posing as a debt-ridden drug addict in a Ventura motel.
Ventura detectives said they secretly videotaped Marc Charles Leege, 38, as he graphically described how he planned to sexually abuse the child and hoped to maintain a long-term relationship with the toddler at a cost of $1,000.
Leege's arrest culminated a two-week investigation that included extended surveillance and Thursday's sting at a Motel 6 on Harbor Boulevard.
Leege was arrested on two counts of pandering and two counts of soliciting for a criminal act, police said. He remains in Ventura County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
Police said they are also looking into whether Leege committed sex crimes against children in several other states, including Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Before his arrest, Leege was working as a helicopter mechanic in Santa Paula and living in a $350-a-month rented room in The Villas condominium complex in Oxnard. Leege's landlord, who asked not to be identified, said he had sublet a room for about six weeks and was expected to soon move out.
The landlord said Leege was a reasonably normal tenant who lived quietly, spending time at home and a local gym. The landlord said Leege came with flawless recommendations from landlords in Arkansas, Florida and Oregon.
She said Leege called her from jail Friday, denied the charges and asked her to care for his dog, Kimi. Police searched Leege's room at 3 a.m. Friday but found little evidence, Sgt. George Morris said.
Employees at Helicopter Service in Santa Paula were stunned by news of Leege's arrest. They described him as a prompt, clean-cut and friendly employee. Leege had worked there for about seven weeks and listed Arkansas as his last state of residence, employees said.
Police say they learned of Leege's alleged pandering two weeks ago, when a woman informed detectives that Leege asked her about acquiring a 3-year-old girl for sex.
The informant then introduced Leege to an undercover policewoman willing to rent out a fictional daughter. No real children were involved in the sting operation.
Police and representatives of the district attorney's office monitored Thursday's meeting in Room 180 at Motel 6 using equipment on loan from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Police arrested Leege in the parking lot after a half-hour bargaining session--during which time the child's price bounced between several hundred dollars and $1,000, and Leege spoke of photographing the toddler and past affairs with children, police said.
"We had to get him off the streets as soon as possible," Morris said.
Police believe that Leege, who has a California driver's license and drives a pickup truck with California tags, last resided in Atascadero. But police suspect that Leege has lived in at least half a dozen states.
Some of the detectives involved said they hadn't been so affected by a case in years.
"This is certainly one of the most aggrieved investigations I've been involved in for a long time," said Lt. Carl Handy. "Children are defenseless and expect adults to take proper care of them."