Lawyer Charged in Sex Tourism Case

An Oklahoma City attorney accused of travelling to Peru to engage in sex with underaged girls was formally charged this week after a year-long investigation. Just over a year ago, Michael Dean Billings, 59, and Ada bail bondsman Robert Pierce were accused of visiting Iquitos, Peru, for the purpose of having sex with minors. FBI agents and Peruvian officials detained the two men after they allegedly took two young girls, aged 13 and 17, to a hotel room in the poverty-stricken country known for child prostitution. Investigators claim they found Viagra, four bags of candy, 22 condoms, extra-small lingerie, and $2600 in $100 bills in the room. Billings has denied involvement in criminal sexual activity, saying that Peruvian officials cleared the men of wrongdoing. He says that one of the young girls was the daughter of Pierce's ex-fiancee, and that he was planning to take the girl and her friend to dinner. The attorney says that a former friend was trying to set him up and make it look like he was involved in criminal activity in order to divert attention from the friend's own criminal investigation. FBI officials say that since the accusations were made, Billings and Pierce have been involved in witness tampering, paying witness to say that they were not involved in child prostitution. Investigators say Billings traveled to Peru four to six times a year, with approximately 30 visits between 2005 and September 2013. On Friday, Billings was arrested at his office and charged in a three-count federal indictment. The attorney pleaded not guilty to the three counts of conspiring to travel for illicit sex in a foreign place, and he was ordered to be held without bond pending a detention hearing to be held Monday. Under federal law, it is a felony to travel to foreign countries to engage in sex with minors or other acts which would be sex crimes if they occurred on U.S. soil. It is a violation of federal law even if the act, such as child prostitution, is not illegal in the destination country. Traveling for sex with minors is prohibited under 18 U.S.C. 2243, which reads in part as follows:

(b) Travel With Intent To Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct.--A person who travels in interstate commerce or travels into the United States, or a United States citizen or an alien admitted for permanent residence in the United States who travels in foreign commerce, for the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct with another person shall be fined under this title 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 under this title or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

Conspiracy or attempt to commit the above acts is punishable by the same penalties ascribed to actual commission of the act.