Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Former San Francisco millionaire, philanthropist dies in Vallarta prison, 13 years after pedophilia charges filed

"These tourists live double lives. They come here to live out fantasies."

Guadalajara -
U.S. national Thomas White died in a Puerto Vallarta prison early today, the Jalisco state attorney general has reported.

More than a decade ago White was a millionaire businessman and philanthropist enjoying a life of luxury in San Francisco. But in the early 2000s his world of privilege came crashing down, when he was hit with civil lawsuits filed by young men who alleged White had sex with them while they were minors.

One of the plaintiffs who accused White in a U.S. court was a Mexican teenager who claimed the American began molesting him when he was just 9. In 2001 Mexican state prosecutors filed criminal charges against White, who by then had fled to Bangkok. Eventually 14 Jalisco boys accused White of sexually abusing them - sometimes filming the acts - all while he was building a $2.5 million dollar school for orphans in Puerto Vallarta. Thai police located and arrested White on an international warrant issued by Mexico, and after a long extradition fight he was returned to Jalisco in chains.

In this Oct. 20, 2003 article, People Magazine reported that White had an estimated net worth of $100 million dollars in 2000. He denied the boys' allegations and maintained his innocence during years of legal proceedings in both countries.

In an interview with People a decade ago, Mexican children's rights activist Maria Nicolasa Garcia Reynoso, who originally reported White to officials, said, "Behind the curtain of being a philanthropist, he was doing many dark things.

The president of a Guadalajara missing children's group told the magazine, "These tourists live double lives. They come here to live out fantasies."

A Mexican lawyer who represented White on the criminal charges claimed in the same article that the case was "a vendetta and a conspiracy" set in motion by Garcia Reynoso, whom he said had pressured the boys. She sued the lawyer, a member of White's local legal team, in retaliation. And a California attorney who represented the Mexican plaintiffs in the American civil court action said just the opposite, charging that White's Jalisco attorneys bribed the boys with bikes and cash to get them to retract incriminating statements they had made against the wealthy businessman.

An American associate of White at the time, Nathan Lovaas, was also arrested and charged in a U.S. federal court with trafficking in child pornography and foreign travel for the purpose of sex with a minor. Lovaas served a U.S. prison term before being paroled.

A Chicago native, White made his fortune from a brokerage firm he founded in 1978, People reported in the 2003 article while he was still fighting extradition from Thailand. He later moved to the Bay area, where he was an avid supporter of San Francisco's gay and lesbian community. White's friends and business associates said they did not believe the boys' sex abuse allegations.

In 1999 White began working on a 100 bed facility for orphans, Los Niños de Vallarta, in the Pacific coast resort. Garcia Reynoso soon heard troubling stories about White's personal life, which included claims of sexual contact between the American and several local boys. She videotaped some of their statements and turned them over to Jalisco authorities in 2000. The ensuing investigation ultimately spawned civil and criminal litigation in both Mexico and the United States.

By the time Jalisco prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for White in early 2001, he was long gone. Records show he traveled to Russia, Costa Rica and Chile before arriving in Thailand in May 2002, where he bought a beach house. White was arrested there on Feb. 13, 2003. Thailand is a popular travel destination for sex tourists and pedophiles from the U.S. and all over the world.

White was charged in Mexico with producing child pornography and other offenses. The testimony of Nathan Lovaas, who himself was accused of sexually abusing dozens of minors in the United States, helped convict White in this country. Mexico's Milenio news network identified Lovaas as White's gay lover in the years before the men's arrests.

The Jalisco prosecutor did not state White's cause of death. He was 78. Spanish press sources did not indicate whether White was still challenging his convictions in Mexico at the time of his death.

White arrived in Puerto Vallarta in the mid-1980s, sources said, where he soon earned the reputation as a wealthy philanthropist interested in helping orphans and children from marginal families. He once owned a hotel called the Iguana, and an estate which he christened Casa Blanca (the White House).

Guadalajara's El Informador reported in this story that White used alcohol, drugs and cash to lure his young victims into sexual encounters at Casa Blanca. Sometimes other persons were present and participated, and the paper claims that on occasion White threatened unwilling boys with a firearm.

"White scared me," said a victim. "When I saw that some of his friends were carrying guns, I got very nervous. Then we all had to take off our clothes. One day he showed up with marijuana and cocaine - exactly the drugs my friends and I wanted."

El Informador quoted another unidentified victim, who told the paper that he and a young friend "had sex (with White), but we had no idea he was filming it all." Most victims were between 10 and 17, the paper reported.

White entered the Vallarta prison facility on July 31, 2005 after being convicted of rape, sexual abuse of minors, making child pornography and other crimes. Even while in custody, White was accused of sexually abusing other inmates, according to El Infomador's story today.

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.

Sept. 18 - Canada tightens predator laws aimed at sex tourism
June 19 - "Dangerous" American pedophile nabbed in Playa del Carmen
June 15 - Canadian faces life sentence in Cuban sex tourism case

May 26, 2012 - A revolting way to die – and to live
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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