Saturday, June 15, 2013

Canadian faces life sentence in Cuban sex tourism case

Guadalajara -
A Toronto man has become the first Canadian to be convicted of committing sex crimes against Cuban children while vacationing there. Crown prosecutors presented their case in court yesterday.

During Friday's brief hearing, retired postal worker James McTurk, 78, admitted he had had sought out children as young as three for sex. Records show that McTurk traveled to the Caribbean island frequently.

The developments were reported by the Toronto Star, which as been monitoring the McTurk case and reporting on sex tourism on the island for months, and by Miami's Spanish language El Nuevo Herald, which collaborated on the project.

McTurk, who pleaded guilty to charges of child pornography and indecent liberties with a minor, will be sentenced later this year. Prosecutors have indicated they may seek a life sentence.

According to the Star, McTurk was the first Canadian ever to be investigated and charged by Toronto police for what the paper called "the unusual charge of sexual tourism."

Canada and the United State both have federal laws which permit the prosecution of citizens who travel abroad seeking sex with minors. Only five other Canadians have been convicted of the offense. McTurk was the first whose acts occurred on Cuban soil, where pedophilia is virtually ignored by local authorities, according to some reports.

McTurk poses with a long dead (1967) hero of the Cuban revolution . . . Che Guevara. The convicted Canadian's public persona didn't give a clue as to what lurked beneath the surface.

McTurk is no stranger to the criminal dock. He was convicted of child pornography offenses in 1995 and 1998, and was required to register as a sex offender. But there were no restrictions on his travel. Investigators found that McTurk made at least 31 trips to Cuba between 2009 and 2012.

His activities were exposed when McTurk took film to a Toronto photo lab for processing. Employees discovered disturbing images of very young children, some partially clothed and most unsmiling. They contacted police.

McTurk was arrested in Toronto on July 24, 2012 when he stepped off a flight from Havana. A search warrant executed at his apartment yielded dozens of videos and photos of a graphic nature, including several of McTurk with a Cuban girl whom, police later learned, was three when she was assaulted.

McTurk told investigators he met one of his victim's grandmother during to a trip to Havana about 20 years ago, and visited her every time he returned. He gave the woman and her family members $250 on each trip, and spent time with them at the beach and on family outings. It is unclear if the woman was aware that McTurk was sexually abusing her granddaughter.

June 19 - "Dangerous" American pedophile nabbed in Playa del Carmen
Sept. 18 - Canada tightens predator laws aimed at sex tourism

The U.S. Protect Act of 2003 (18 U.S.C. § 2423) contains severe penalties for American citizens who participate in sex tourism:

(b) Travel With Intent To Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct. - Any person who travels in interstate commerce or travels into the United States for the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct with another person shall be fined or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

(c) Engaging in Illicit Sexual Conduct in Foreign Places. - Any United States citizen or alien admitted for permanent residence who travels in foreign commerce and engages in any illicit sexual conduct with another person shall be fined or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

(f) Definition. - The term "illicit sexual conduct" means a sexual act with a person under 18 years of age which would [violate U.S. law] if the act occurred in the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

Despite the law, sexual tourism involving U.S. nationals remains a significant problem, especially in developing nations.

May 27, 2012 - Gay readers share candid thoughts on gay sex tourism in Mérida
Jan. 18, 2013 - "Violence on Yucatán soil" - against foreigners
Feb. 15, 2013 - American expat murdered in Mérida had sex with 17 year old boy just before he died

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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