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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Man Convicted of Sexual Assault

PHILADELPHIA -- A wealthy motel owner was convicted Friday of traveling to eastern Europe to sexually assault impoverished boys in exchange for money and gifts.

Anthony Mark Bianchi, 45, was found guilty of virtually all the charges he faced in federal court. He faces more than 20 years in prison under sentencing guidelines, prosecutors said.

Bianchi was convicted of having sex with or attempting to have sex with at least a half-dozen boys on foreign soil, including in the isolated Moldovan village of Trebujeni, on trips from late 2003 to 2005.

Bianchi's case is among more than 50 that have been brought under a largely untested 2003 law that puts Americans accused of preying on children overseas on trial in U.S. courtrooms. About 30 people have been convicted, including a teacher and a Peace Corps volunteer.

The logistics of bringing victims and witnesses to a U.S. courthouse many time zones away raises constitutional issues that legal scholars expect will reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mark Geragos, the high-profile lawyer representing Bianchi, said prosecutors hobbled his case by threatening to arrest his Moldovan co-counsel for alleged witness intimidation if he came to Philadelphia to testify. U.S. District Judge Bruce Kauffman granted Geragos a post-trial hearing on the issue.

"It's hard enough to win against the U.S. government when you have a defense. It's next to impossible when they cripple you," Geragos said Friday.

During the three-week trial, most of which was heard through translators, the Moldovan boys testified that Bianchi invited them to have dinner or go bowling with them, and before long made sexual advances.

One boy said Bianchi raped him, while another said he was assaulted while he was intoxicated. Another said Bianchi asked to sleep with him in his bed in his family's small apartment -- and that he fled when Bianchi started fondling him.

But one seemingly bewildered boy, asked to identify his alleged attacker, spent more than a minute looking around the crowded courtroom before admitting, "I don't see him." The charge involving him was withdrawn.

In closing arguments, prosecutors asked why a middle-aged American man would travel to a remote part of the world to meet boys and play children's games with them.

Geragos said his client enjoyed traveling to offbeat destinations and had no ulterior motives for giving the boys gifts. He noted discrepancies in the boy's statements, and suggested they told prosecutors what they wanted to hear to snag a trip to the United States.

"I am as confident as I can be that the verdict will not stand given everything that transpired in this case," Geragos said.

Most of the boys came to the United States without so much as a piece of luggage for the one-week trip, Mann said. U.S. officials provided them with clothes, meals, hotel rooms and a few supervised excursions, prompting cries from the defense that prosecutors enjoyed an unfair advantage.

Bianchi, who has been in prison since his January 2006 arrest, showed little reaction as the jury read its verdict. Kauffman set his sentencing for Nov. 1.

Bianchi was previously convicted of similar charges in Russia and was sentenced to three years in prison, but was soon released under an amnesty bill.