A GARDEN City, New York man on Friday, June 19, was indicted by a federal court in the United States for traveling to the Philippines with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, sexual exploitation of a child, distribution of child pornography and possession of child pornography.
The indictment was filed with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York charges, after an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York.
Thomas Blaha, 64, traveled from New York to the Philippines in September and October of 2019 to engage in sexual activity with a 13-year-old female in exchange for money. He also enticed the victim to produce sexually explicit images of herself and send them to him in exchange for money.
Government agents obtained search warrants in December 2019 for Blaha’s Facebook account as well as his residence in Garden City, New York and electronic devices.
The court filings said the searches revealed hundreds of images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
“It’s alleged Blaha made trips to the Philippines to sexually abuse a 13-year old female who was being exploited for money,” said Peter C. Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of HSI New York.
He stressed that crimes involving the sexual exploitation of unwitting children are the most heinous and will not be tolerated, regardless of where the sexual acts occur.
Fitzhugh also vowed that the HSI will stop at nothing to put an end to child victimization worldwide.
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said, “The defendant allegedly traveled halfway across the globe to sexually exploit a minor that he had enticed through Facebook and create child pornography.”
“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting children from online predators by identifying such offenders and prosecuting them to the full extent of the law,” he added.
Blaha, if convicted, will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and up to a maximum of 170 years imprisonment.