Wednesday, August 13, 2008

U.S. Immigration officer accused of soliciting sex


A Brazilian judge issued an arrest warrant Wednesday for a U.S. immigration officer accused of soliciting an 11-year-old boy for sex in Rio de Janeiro.Michael Joseph Clifford, 43, of Providence, Rhode Island allegedly took the boy, one of Rio de Janeiro's many impoverished street children, to his Copacabana hotel room last month and paid him US$175 for sex, police inspector Jairo Pessanha said.Clifford, who has since returned to the United States, is accused of child sex exploitation and sexual abuse of minors. The charges that carry up to 26 years in prison, Pessanha said.The Associated Press left messages seeking comment at several phone numbers listed under Clifford's name in the Providence area, but they were not immediately returned. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington said the agent has been placed on leave while it conducts its own investigation.Brazilian authorities say hotel personnel handed over security camera footage showing Clifford and the boy entering the hotel at 3:00 a.m. on March 15 and leaving five hours later.Pessanha said the cameras also filmed Clifford giving money to two Brazilian men who allegedly arranged the encounter. They were arrested on Wednesday and face similar charges.Police are still investigating whether a larger sex ring could be involved, the inspector said.Pessanha said the suspect traveled to Brazil frequently to escort deported illegal immigrants here.Police, U.S. consular officials and Interpol and FBI agents will meet on Thursday "to discuss how to get Clifford back to Brazil to stand trial," he said.

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