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British man facing US trial in child sex case

A British man accused of paying an undercover Homeland Security agent to have sex with a nine-year-old boy faces trial in the US next month.

Paul Charles Wilkins allegedly brokered a deal with the investigator to pay 250 dollars to have sex with the boy at an apartment he rented in Palm Springs, an upmarket holiday destination in California.

Wilkins is also accused of travelling to California in January to meet boys aged between 10 and 12 for what prosecutors called "illicit sexual conduct".

The US Attorney's Office in Los Angeles said the 70-year-old, who holds dual British and US citizenship, was charged with travelling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and attempted sex trafficking of children.

He has also been charged with child pornography offences relating to images found on a laptop and an external hard drive, seized after agents searched the apartment following his arrest on February 11.

Wilkins, of Littleport in east Cambridgeshire, is in custody without bond and if found guilty of attempted sex trafficking he faces a minimum sentence of 15 years in a federal prison and a maximum of life without parole.

US federal prosecutor Eileen Decker said: "Child predators - whether foreign or domestic - threaten the most vulnerable members of society, which is why we devote considerable resources to stopping them.

"The new indictment adds additional charges that ... could subject him to a longer prison term."

The investigation was led by agents from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) department.

Robert Goetsch, acting special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles, said: "Paedophiles in the United States, or anywhere in the world, who believe they can escape the detection of law enforcement by travelling to another county to commit heinous crimes against children should take note.

"HSI and its law enforcement partners around the globe will pursue those criminals who subject children to this torment and bring them to justice by using every tool at our disposal."

Wilkins will go on trial before District Judge Dolly Gee on July 19.

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