Former student priest arrested on suspicion of trying to pay to rape babies

Joel Wright, 23, detained at San Diego airport while carrying baby clothes and $2,000 in cash

Tom Brooks-Pollock
Monday 01 February 2016 09:20
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Joel Wright, second left, is arrested at San Diegoís airport in San Diego on federal charges for allegedly seeking to have sex with infant and young girls in Mexico.
Joel Wright, second left, is arrested at San Diegoís airport in San Diego on federal charges for allegedly seeking to have sex with infant and young girls in Mexico.

A former student priest has been arrested on suspicion of trying to pay to rape a baby and a young girl, following an undercover sting operation by American authorities.

Joel Wright, 23, was carrying baby clothes and a bottle in his luggage, and $2,000 (£1,400) in cash when he was detained as he got off a plane in San Diego, California on Friday.

The US Department of Immigration said Mr Wright had previously travelled to Tijuana, Mexico, in an unsuccessful attempt to adopt a child, and reportedly spelled out in explicit online messages that he hoped to have sex with an infant and a four-year-old girl.

According to the criminal complaint, Mr Wright, who was expelled from Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, tried to adopt a child in Mexico in 2014.

After receiving a tip-off, an undercover agent posed as a tour guide based in Mexico and started chatting with Wright.

Asked in an email if he had 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]."

Wright is charged with travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and aggravated sexual abuse of a child. He will appear in court on Monday.

His mother, Teresa Wright Poquette, who lives in Vermont where Wright grew up, said she did not believe the allegations.

The Rev John Allen, vice president at Pontifical College Josephinum, said Wright began attending the seminary last autumn and had undergone a battery of psychological tests, interviews and a background check before being accepted.

Wright lost his place at the seminary when he left the campus without authorisation.

Mr Allen said: "We're shocked and saddened by the heinous nature of the allegations."

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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