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Former USC professor accused of child sexual abuse held in Mexico

June 19, 2013|By Andrew Blankstein

U.S. officials were working with Mexican authorities Wednesday to extradite a former USC professor accused of sexually abusing children.

Walter Lee Williams, 64, was captured Tuesday in Playa del Carmen along the Caribbean in the state of Quintana Roo, according to media reports in Mexico.

He is currently in custody in Mexico and it's unclear when he will be returned to the United States to face charges.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said officials on both sides of the border were working through the "legal process."

He is charged with the sexual exploitation of children, traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, the FBI said.

Williams was on the bureau's Ten Most Wanted list. His image remained on the site Wednesday morning, 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 ages 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 FBI agents, according to 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.

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com


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