Baltimore, Maryland – A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment today charging Richard Ho Lee, age 32, of Baltimore, today with production of a visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, receipt of child pornography, and aggravated identity theft.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“When an adult profits from sex with a child, that is human trafficking, period,” said Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Children cannot consent to have sex for money, and any adult who encourages or profits from sexual exploitation of children faces a lengthy term in federal prison.”
According to the five count indictment, on five occasions in September and October of 2011, while Lee and the victim were in Baltimore, Lee purchased sex from the victim, who was only 16 years old. On October 31, 2011, Lee paid for a bus ticket for the victim to travel to Panama City, Florida, where Lee met her. Lee took the victim to a condo he had rented in Panama City and allegedly provided the victim with marijuana and alcohol. According to the indictment, Lee continued to have sex with the 16 year old victim, and encouraged her to engage in prostitution. From about December 22, 2011 to January 4, 2012, Lee placed at least 15 advertisements for the victim in the “escorts” and “body rubs” sections of an adult website. Lee used his personal credit card to pay for the advertisements, which stated, among other things, that the victim was an adult. Lee took provocative photographs of the victim in lingerie and underwear that he had purchased for the victim and attached some of the photos to the advertisements. Lee allegedly rented a second condominium where he told the victim to engage in prostitution. The indictment charges that the victim had sex with customers and agreed to provide Lee with a percentage of her earnings.
On January 9, 2012, Lee purchased a bus ticket for the victim, which she used to travel from Florida back to Maryland. In January 2012, Lee produced a counterfeit North Dakota state driver’s license for the victim, which indicated that she was 22 years old, and which Lee knew to contain the personal identifying information of another person. In May 2012, Lee allegedly took pornographic photographs of the victim inside his residence in Baltimore, some of which he sent via email over the Internet.
According to the superseding indictment, in June 2012, federal agents recovered Lee’s laptop computers and an external hard drive which contained over 600 images of child pornography, including images that depicted minors that are less than twelve years old and portrayed sadistic and masochistic conduct. Further, the laptop contained pornographic photographs that Lee had taken of the victim. In addition, the indictment alleges that Lee’s computer contained templates designed to be used for the production of counterfeit state driver’s licenses.
Lee faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for production of child pornography and for transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; a maximum of 20 years in prison for receipt of child pornography; and a mandatory sentence of two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence, for aggravated identity theft. An initial appearance will be scheduled in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
The case was investigated by the FBI-led Maryland Child Exploitation Task Force (MCETF), created in 2010 to combat child prostitution, with members from10 state and federal law enforcement agencies. The Task Force coordinates with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Maryland State Police Child Recovery Unit to identify missing children being advertised online for prostitution.
MCETF partners with the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, formed in 2007 to discover and rescue victims of human trafficking while identifying and prosecuting offenders. Members include federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as victim service providers and local community members. For more information about the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, please visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/md/priorities_human.html.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI for its work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark W. Crooks, who is prosecuting the case.