A 59-year-old Torrance man was sentenced Tuesday morning to 57 months in federal prison for obstructing a sex-trafficking probe being conducted by the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations.
Charles Goswitz—a court videographer who used the online moniker "Baldy Cruiser"—admitted to lying to federal investigators about his relationship with a 16-year-old girl he met online and hired for sex, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
He pleaded guilty to the obstruction charge on June 22.
The case marks the first federal prosecution in the Los Angeles area of a so-called "John" in a teen sex-trafficking investigation and only the second such federal prosecution nationwide, authorities said.
"Human trafficking inflicts tremendous harm on its victims, especially when those victims are children," U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said. "We have a duty to protect children from these predators, which includes prosecuting those who purchase children for sex. The significant sentence the defendant received in this case should serve as a warning to adults who engage in this type of criminal conduct. Although this is the first case of its kind in this district, it will not be the last."
A lead from the LBPD to HSI special agents about a missing teen whose father suspected she was involved in prostitution initiated the probe into Goswitz’s activities in February 2013. During the investigation, authorities found sexually explicit images of the victim in an advertisement Goswitz posted on Backpage.com soliciting sex.
In April 2013, HSI special agents met with Goswitz and notified him the teen was missing and was a potential human trafficking victim, according to the case affidavit. The affidavit also states Goswitz denied ever meeting the 16-year-old, claiming he obtained the photographs of her online. Two months later, the agents again questioned Goswitz, at which time he admitted engaging in commercial sex acts with the victim.
Goswitz also acknowledged he had contacted the victim after his initial meeting with investigators, and confirmed he had the victim and other females with whom he engaged in commercial sex acts pose for explicit photos wearing t-shirts saying “I love Baldy Cruiser.” He then posted those images on Internet sex forums as proof of his sexual exploits, authorities said.
"This case should put commercial sex patrons on notice," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "Those who pay for sex with minors are contributing in no small way to the current epidemic of teen and child sex-trafficking. The clients in these cases are, for all intents and purposes, as culpable as the actual traffickers and we intend to hold them accountable for their actions."
Goswitz was ordered to surrender in 60 days to begin serving his sentence.
Upon completion of his prison term, Goswitz will be subject to five years’ supervised release and will be required to register as a sex offender for life.