An initial appearance in federal court in Los Angeles is expected Thursday for Walter Lee Williams, a former USC professor charged with sex crimes against children.
Williams, 64, was hiding in plain sight in Mexico, where he was arrested this week, Bill Lewis, FBI assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles office, said Wednesday.
Williams was added to the FBI‘s 10-most-wanted fugitives list this week, arrested a day later and escorted by law enforcement authorities Wednesday night off a plane at Los Angeles International Airport as he was returned to the U.S.
He has been indicted for sex crimes against children overseas and was arrested Tuesday after he was spotted by a Mexican citizen who had seen the fugitive’s photo in the newspaper, officials said.
Williams was taken into custody by Mexican officials in the Caribbean town of Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintana Roo, authorities said.
He fled Los Angeles in 2011.
“We had an idea he may have fled to Mexico,” Lewis said, adding that Williams’ exact location was unknown until the witness contacted authorities.
At least 10 alleged victims between the ages of 9 and 17 have been identified by authorities in the case, according to the FBI. Many live in Third World countries, the agency said. Williams has traveled extensively and lived in Southeast Asia and Polynesia.
A four-count federal indictment filed April 30 alleges crimes involving two 14-year-old boys that 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.
Williams went to the Philippines in January 2011, where he is suspected of committing “sexually explicit conduct” with the boys, taking photos of the encounters and bringing the photos back to Los Angeles County, the indictment said.
In 2011, the Los Angeles Police Department was alerted by an adult student that Williams was allegedly seeking out minors for sex through the Internet, Assistant Chief Michel Moore said.
The accusation prompted an investigation in which Williams was interviewed by an LAPD detective, but there “was insufficient evidence for a warrant,” Moore said.
“We did have our suspicions.” Moore told the Los Angeles Times.
When Williams returned from his Philippines trip, the FBI seized his laptop computer, authorities said. Moore said the computer allegedly contained evidence of sex crimes with boys overseas and images of minors in sexual situations. By the time the evidence was recovered, Williams had fled Los Angeles, according to authorities.
Lewis said Wednesday that the FBI was only aware of victims overseas, but he added that authorities believe there may be other victims and urged them to come forward.
Williams taught anthropology, gender studies and history at USC, according to the university.