Man, 58, pleads guilty in Internet solicitation 14-year-old in chat room turns out to be FBI agent

September 17, 1998|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

A former member of the Belgian consulate pleaded guilty yesterday to traveling to Maryland to have sex with a 14-year-old girl whom he met in an Internet chat room -- but who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.

Georges Debeir, 58, of Garden City, N.Y., faces 12 to 18 months in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 20 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Debeir formerly worked in the Belgian-American Chamber of Commerce in New York.

Debeir was caught as part of an ongoing FBI sting operation called "Innocent Images," in which undercover federal agents pose as children online in order to identify pedophiles. More than 200 people have been convicted in the national program, which is based at the Baltimore FBI.

According to a statement of facts read in court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bonnie S. Greenberg, Debeir, using the screen name "Big Moose," made sexual suggestions to one of the undercover agents in April. The agent had identified himself online as a 14-year-old girl named Kathy, court papers said.

"Debeir said that he was sexually attracted to young girls and that he was sexually interested in Kathy because she was 14 years old," the statement said.

Debeir offered to pay the girl $150 for sexual favors, the statement said. After several more conversations, Debeir told "Kathy" that he would meet her at the Gallery at Harborplace and take her to a hotel for oral sex, court papers said.

On May 26, Debeir drove to Baltimore from New York and went to the Gallery for what he believed to be a meeting with Kathy. But he was arrested by FBI agents.

Debeir, a tall man who wore a dark gray pinstriped suit, sat with his head down as the statement of facts was read. His federal public defender, Beth M. Farber, said after the hearing that the former consul has had a "long and distinguished career" and has never been in trouble with the law before.

"The government has treated him as some kind of repeat predator, and there's no evidence of that," Farber said. "One act by a person carried away by an Internet correspondence does not reflect a person's whole life or character."

She added, "There's a lot of fantasizing and hyperbole on the Internet. He got carried away in this cyberworld of chat rooms. He's very remorseful about what happened."

Debeir is unemployed, she said.

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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