Canadian man sentenced to over 10 years in prison in Florida sex tourism case

A Quebec man who admitted to travelling to Florida to have sex with someone he believed was an underage boy, was sentenced to just over 10 years in a U.S. prison on Thursday.

A Miami judge also ordered that Rene Roberge of Sherbrooke, Que., be placed on probation for life after his release from prison.

Roberge had pleaded guilty to four federal sex offences — two counts of enticing a minor into sexual activity, one count of entering the U.S. to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor and one count of transporting child pornography.

Authorities said he flew to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after making online contact with undercover investigators posing as a 14-year-old boy and his father to arrange a sexual encounter.

Officials said Roberge also planned to travel to San Antonio, Texas, to have sex with a teenage boy.

The judge sentencing Roberge recommended he be placed in a prison close to Quebec, as was requested by members of his family who submitted a letter to court.

“We agree and so does Rene that he made a big mistake,” the translated letter originally written in French by Roberge’s mother, two brothers and a sister-in-law said.

“Rene has lots of regrets, he is not a criminal. An error was made on his path….He has a nice personality, not at all violent.”

Roberge’s family tried to offer an explanation for the 48-year-old’s behaviour, saying he had been very sick — “between life and death” — before his arrest.

“He woke up paralysed from the waist to the feet. Is it a great emotion like this one that caused this unsettlement? We do not know,” the letter said, noting that Roberge had five nephews and “never tried to approach them to do anything.”

In a criminal complaint filed in Roberge’s case, an American special agent had said Roberge had cited a near-death experience for wanting to live out his “perv” fantasy of having sex with a boy.

A complaint filed by Vanessa Blanco, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said American authorities began a sting on a social networking site, with an undercover agent posing as a man named Remy, the 55-year-old father of a teen named Donnie.

Roberge, who belonged to an online chat group called “how sick and twisted are you,” indicated he was looking for a dad willing to share a young boy, Blanco stated.

“Roberge further states that because of his near-death experience, he has ‘decided to live all (his) fantasies and go ahead to realize (his) perv dreams’,” Blanco writes of an email Roberge allegedly sent.

In a series of emails, Roberge also apparently told Remy they didn’t have to worry about condoms because he was a “clean, clean man, no disease” who always smelled good and said he had a “serious medical problem” two years ago and still walked with a cane, according to Blanco.

Roberge, who told the “father” he had made hotel reservations in Pompano Beach, Fla., was arrested at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood airport in November after a flight from Montreal.

Agents reported finding child pornography on Roberge’s tablet computer after his arrest.

An adoptive mother of some victims depicted in the child pornography submitted a victim impact statement to the court.

In it, the mother said the children were sexually assaulted by a foster parent, who then shared photos of the abuse online.

“Every time a deranged pervert posts and reposts these graphic images of our sons, our nightmare occurs again and again. For I know that someone is deriving sick sexual pleasure from viewing pictures of my sons being raped,” the woman wrote.

“With people such as this defendant actively seeking, purchasing, collecting, trading and gratifying themselves with these horrific depictions of child rape, memories of these events are kept alive and nourished by this vile sickness of human spirit. A victimless crime? Hardly.”

Diana Mehta, The Canadian Press