A Canadian "sex tourist" who admitted he traveled to Fort Lauderdale to have sex with two teenage boys was sentenced Thursday to a little more than 10 years in federal prison.
After a near-death experience, he decided to live all his fantasies and indulge what he called his "perve dreams," Rene Roberge wrote in one email found in court records.
Roberge, 48, was arrested in November shortly after his flight landed at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
He had been communicating online for several weeks with a man Roberge thought was going to let him have sex with the man's 14-year-old son in Pompano Beach.
That arrangement was an undercover sting involving a fictional teen, arranged by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents who posed as a 55-year-old dad.
But after Roberge was detained at the airport, he told federal agents from Homeland Security Investigations that he was planning to travel on to Texas to have sex with a real 15-year-old boy he had also been communicating with online.
Investigators also found more than 150 child pornography images on Roberge's iPad, which he brought with him. Authorities said he also shared some of the child pornography images with the 15-year-old.
Roberge, a former TV soundman who lived in Sherbrooke in Quebec, pleaded guilty earlier this year to 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.
At his sentencing hearing in federal court in Miami, Roberge told Chief U.S District Judge K. Michael Moore he was sorry for his crimes, as well as the trouble and shame he created for himself and his family.
"I would like first to apologize to the family of the victim for the trauma that I've caused," Roberge said in his primary language, French. "I take full responsibility for this matter and I ask your honor for some clemency in my sentence."
Roberge's mother, his two brothers and sister-in-law wrote a letter, also translated from French, seeking mercy from the judge.
The family suggested that he had been deeply affected by a severe heart condition and spent three weeks hovering between life and death in intensive care. Though he can now walk with a cane, they said Roberge was paralyzed from the waist down for some time after surgery.
"Is it a great emotion like this one that caused this unsettlement?" they wrote. "We do not know. Rene has lots of regrets; he is not a criminal. An error was made on his path."
Assistant Federal Public Defender Joaquin Padilla told the judge that Roberge had never been arrested before and immediately admitted what he had done when agents questioned him at the airport. He even wrote a letter of apology to one of the minors during the airport interview.
"[His cooperation] was immediate, it was complete and it was heartfelt," Padilla said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis Viamontes agreed and told the judge that Roberge's cooperation was probably the only reason authorities were able to find the 15-year-old boy in Texas. Because of that, they were able to get him therapy and other help, she said.
She praised investigators for their work in capturing Roberge before he had physical contact with a real minor.
Moore sentenced Roberge to 10 years and one month in federal prison, followed by lifetime supervised release. He will be deported after his imprisonment.
He must register as a sex offender, receive sex offender treatment, is prohibited from having contact with minors and will have restricted access to computers for the rest of his life. The judge will rule next month on whether Roberge must pay restitution to the victims.
Roberge's online profile described his interests as "looking for Dad how shares for a young boy." He joined groups online called "How sick and twisted are you?" and "Pervert Fantasies."
Federal prosecutors asked the judge to weigh the fact that Roberge's child pornography collection included images of prepubescent minors; the material portrayed sadistic or masochistic conduct; and Roberge shared the material with the 15-year-old.
Prosecutors also asked the judge to consider a letter written by the adoptive mother of three of the underage brothers who appeared in some of the child pornography that Roberge downloaded from the Internet.
The boys were sexually assaulted and exploited by a foster parent in 2003 after they were taken from their biological parents because of abuse and neglect. The foster parent repeatedly raped the boys, forced them into sexual activity with other children and shared photographs of that abuse online with other perverts, the mother wrote in her letter.
"Every time a deranged pervert posts and re-posts 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, who is not identified in court records, said she wrote the letter to dispel the myth that sharing old child pornography online is a victimless crime. Her children feel like they are being exploited when they learn that another person is sharing the images of them being abused online, she wrote.
From our media partner Sun Sentinel