A high-school computer teacher in the state of Alabama is facing charges under US federal law of having sex with children in Thailand for more than a decade.
Prosecutors say the evidence against Clarence Evers, 52, includes pornographic images of children as well as emails in which he bragged about his activities in Thailand, according to the Alabama news portal AL.com.
Mr Evers made his first appearance on Friday in US District Court in Mobile, Alabama. US Magistrate Judge Sonja Givins is expected to rule soon on whether he should be placed under house arrest while awaiting further legal proceedings.
Federal prosecutors described him as a flight risk and a danger, while a family member and Mr Evers’ lawyer portrayed him as a pillar of the community.
The hearing took place one day after authorities unsealed a criminal complaint that charged the resident of Evergreen, Alabama with making trips to Thailand for more than a decade for sex tourism. He was also charged with producing and distributing child pornography.
Mr Evers, who has taught for around 15 years, had been travelling to Thailand since 2002 during summer breaks from school, prosecutors said. He had a house in Klong Yai district of Trat province, the complaint states.
Assistant US Attorney Maria Murphy said in the hearing that Mr Evers was a flight risk, citing a file in his Gmail that looked like a forged passport with a fake name and identification number. She also said that the accused spoke Thai well enough to “support himself”, had money in bank accounts in the country, and may have a place to live and work in if he fled there.
Kandace Whitehead, a Homeland Security Investigations special agent, said the investigation into Mr Evers began in 2014 when a Thai child reported abuse to Homeland Security in Bangkok. In April 2015, authorities raided the teacher’s home and seized computers and files that were heavily encrypted.
Investigators subsequently issued a summons to Facebook requesting account information for the “Khun Buddy” screen name used by Mr Evers to contact his Thai victim.
The victim also logged into a Facebook account and printed out five pictures of himself taken at three different locations, one being Mr Evers’ house in Trat.
Forensic computers in New Orleans and Washington DC were unable to crack the “sophisticated” codes required to access some materials, Ms Whitehead said.
However, investigators retrieved some files including folders that catalogue sets of photos with minors in illicit sexual positions, she added.
As well, investigators subpoenaed Google for access to Mr Evers’ Gmail account, where they examined conversations and transactions.
One email read: “I plan to go back this summer to my residence place, where I am assured many friends, past and present await.” It noted that he had been with one of his “friends” aged between 9 and 15, using the Thai numerals.
Two years ago, prosecutors said, Mr Evers discussed in an email with an acquaintance a string of related prosecutions in Thailand.
“I still plan to go this summer, but I definitely have to rethink my playtime strategy,” he wrote, according to the complaint. “It sure seems more apparent every day that we were there at a very good time in history, and that those good times are exactly that: history.”