A 23-year-old man from Ohio who was a seminarian for a semester at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus was arrested by federal agents Friday in San Diego.
The agents were acting on knowledge that Joel Wright was seeking to have sex with infants in Mexico. Wright was carrying $2,000 in cash along with baby clothes and a bottle in his luggage, a Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said Sunday.
Wright had previously traveled to Tijuana in an unsuccessful attempt to adopt a child, authorities said.
According to the criminal complaint, the former student at Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus tried in 2014 to adopt a child in Mexico — going so far as to hand over an “adoption fee” in a Tijuana hotel room — and more recently spelled out in explicit online messages what he hoped to do with an infant and a 4-year-old girl.
Asked in an email if he’d previously had sex with infants, Wright allegedly responded: “I have not gone all the way before but I have made it very close in the past so I do have experance (sic).”
In another email Wright said, “I want to adopt / own a baby girl (under the age of 3) and I want to have intercourse with her after I own her but don’t be telling people that.”
There are even worse details in the criminal complaint.
Wright, 23, has been charged with travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and aggravated sexual abuse of a child. He is scheduled to appear in court in Monday.
Court records do not indicate that Wright has an attorney. His mother, Teresa Wright Poquette, told The Associated Press on Sunday that she didn’t believe the allegations.
Poquette, who lives in Vermont where Wright grew up, said she couldn’t say anything more.
Rev. John Allen, vice president for advancement at Pontifical College Josephinum, said Wright began attending the school last fall and that he’d undergone a battery of psychological tests, interviews and a background check before being accepted. Wright lost his status at the seminary when he left the campus without authorization.
“We’re shocked and saddened by the heinous nature of the allegations,” Allen told the AP.
Wright was arrested after communicating multiple times with a single contact, ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack told the AP.
According to the complaint, Wright placed an ad on the Tijuana Craigslist site in July 2014 that sought to adopt a child, but didn’t succeed when the person who responded — called the “reporting person” in the complaint — took his money and never returned.
The same person, using a different email address, responded to another Craigslist ad from Wright in July 2015, the complaint said. Wright initially said he was interested in marrying a woman and adopting a child, but eventually revealed he wanted to have sex with infants, according to the complaint.
Homeland Security received a tip about Wright in November and an agent took over the reporting person’s latest email account and began corresponding with Wright, the complaint said.
The agent bought a plane ticket for Wright so he could fly to San Diego, but Wright balked and said in an email that he didn’t want to be contacted again, according to the complaint.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.