Former seminary student gets nearly 16 years in prison for seeking Mexican infants, toddlers for sex

U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents arrest Joel Wright at Lindbergh Field in San Diego on Jan. 29, 2016. He pleaded guilty to seeking to have sex with infants and young girls in Mexico.
(U.S. Homeland Security Investigations)

A former Ohio seminarian was sentenced Friday to nearly 16 years in prison for trying to adopt or purchase infants from Mexico to sexually molest them.

Joel Wright, 23, pleaded guilty in April to a federal charge of attempted enticement of a minor. The former student at Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, admitted that he wrote sexually explicit emails in which he described his desire to assault children, from infants up to the age of 4.

Wright placed Craigslist ads for a Tijuana tour guide starting in November and told someone who responded that he wanted a girl under 3 years old for sex. In one message, he wrote that he picked up infant pain-relief medication and a “pretty outfit which I think should fit the 1 or 2 year old.”

The person he contacted was cooperating with federal agents. Wright was arrested when he flew into San Diego in January.


U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said Wright, who was born severely disabled and has several health problems including blindness, accomplished many things in life but for whatever reason, over the last few years, pursued children, according to KSWB-TV.

Gregory Murphy, Wright’s attorney, said his client’s conduct is contrary to what he’s done his whole life, according to the Fox affiliate.

“He’s committed to getting back to the person he was,” Murphy said. “His secret is out.”

Wright, who faced a maximum sentence of life in prison, was ordered to spend 15 years and eight months in custody. His attorney had recommended a 10-year sentence.

Dave Shaw, special agent in charge of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego, said he was gratified Wright was stopped before anyone was hurt. “The circumstances of this case were unspeakable, but today’s sentence assures this individual won’t pose a threat to children any time in the near future,” he said.


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