A 29-year-old man from Mount Vernon could face life in prison after pleading guilty to transporting a teen for sexual purposes, the Department of Justice announced yesterday.
Apipat Vutipawat pleaded guilty last Thursday (Nov. 10) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to charges that, from May 29, 2020 through June 2, 2020, he transported an unidentified minor from Virginia to Pennsylvania “with the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
According to the Observer-Reporter, Vutipawat was arrested on May 14, 2020 in Pennsylvania’s Richhill Township after police found him in a vehicle with a 14-year-old girl who said he was her boyfriend. He had allegedly met the girl through a dating app and faced multiple local assault charges.
Vutipawat pleaded guilty to aggravated indecent assault in Washington County Court and was sentenced to over three years in prison on Jan. 14, according to court records.
Vutipawat was indicted on three federal charges in March 2021, including traveling with the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct, transportation with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and obstruction of justice.
With his guilty plea, he faces a total sentence between at least 10 years and life in prison, a fine of up to $750,000, or both, according to the DOJ.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for 11 a.m. on March 16, 2023.
“Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history of the defendant,” the DOJ news release said. “Pending sentencing, Vutipawat remains detained.”
The department says the case was part of its national Project Safe Childhood initiative, which started in May 2006 to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. The Fairfax County Police Department joined the investigation with federal, state and local law enforcement in Pennsylvania.
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