Ex-USC professor wanted in sex crimes against children is captured

Assistant LAPD Chief Michel Moore, right, and Bill Lewis, FBI assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles office, discuss the arrest of former USC professor Walter Lee Williams.
(Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

A former USC professor who was indicted in sex crimes against children overseas was expected to arrive in Los Angeles as early as Wednesday night after he was captured in a coastal town in Mexico, federal authorities said.

Walter Lee Williams, 64, who was added this week to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted fugitives list, was apprehended Tuesday after he was spotted by a Mexican citizen who had seen the fugitive’s photo in a newspaper, said Bill Lewis, FBI assistant director in charge in Los Angeles.

Williams, who fled Los Angeles in 2011, was taken into custody by Mexican officials in the Caribbean town of Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintana Roo, authorities said.


Williams “was actively writing and publishing down there” and was “not living under an assumed name,” Lewis said.

“We had an idea he may have fled to Mexico,” Lewis said. But he added that the exact area was unknown until the witness contacted authorities.

Williams’ image remained on the FBI’s website Wednesday with “captured” posted across the bottom. A four-count federal indictment filed April 30 alleges crimes involving two 14-year-old boys whom Williams met online in 2010. He allegedly “engaged in sexual activity via Internet webcam sessions with the boys and expressed a desire to visit them in the Philippines to have sex,” the FBI said in a statement.

At least 10 alleged victims between the ages of 9 and 17 were identified by authorities, according to the FBI. Many live in Third World countries, the bureau said, and Williams has lived in and traveled extensively across Southeast Asia and Polynesia.

Williams went to the Philippines in January 2011, where he is suspected of committing “sexually explicit conduct” with the boys, took photos of the encounters and brought the photos back to Los Angeles County, the indictment said.

Williams fled Los Angeles after he was questioned by agents, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.


“Because of his status, he has the means and access to children, and that’s what makes him dangerous,” FBI Special Agent Jeff Yesensky said in a video released by the agency. “He preys on the most vulnerable children.”

Williams taught anthropology, gender studies and history at USC, according to a university Web page that has since been taken down.

He is an author and Fulbright award winner who received the USC General Education Outstanding Teacher Award in 2006. He was also recognized for his work with the gay and lesbian community.

Times staff writer Robert J. Lopez contributed to this report.