A Garden City man was indicted Friday on charges of traveling to the Philippines to have sex with a 13-year-old girl, according to officials.
Thomas Blaha, 64, was named in a seven-count indictment that included charges of traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, sexual exploitation of a child, and distribution of child pornography.
Blaha was arrested on a complaint in February and released on $1 million bond on conditions that included home confinement with electronic monitoring, mental evaluation, and no communication with anyone under age 18, except in the presence of that child’s parent or legal guardian.
Blaha was not required to plead to the charges based on a complaint.
But the filing of indictment has been delayed for several months because a grand jury has not been sitting in the federal court in Central Islip until recently.
An arraignment, at which Blaha would plead to the charges, is expected at a later date, officials said.
“The defendant allegedly traveled halfway across the globe to sexually exploit a minor that he had enticed through Facebook and create child pornography," Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting children from online predators by identifying such offenders and prosecuting them to the full extent of the law.”
Blaha’s attorney, Kevin Faga of White Plains, declined to comment.
Blaha traveled from New York to the Philippines in September and October of 2019 to engage in sexual activity with the girl and also to take explicit pictures of her in exchange for money, according to court papers.
Government agents got search warrants for Blaha’s Facebook account and electronic devices as well as to search his home in December, the court papers say. During the searches, investigators found hundreds of images of child pornography, the papers said.
The federal investigation of Blaha by Homeland Security Investigations began in November with a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that a Facebook account belonging to Blaha was in contact with that of a minor in the Philippines in an apparent attempt to entice the minor into sexual activity, according to the court papers.
Blaha is the longtime president of Memory Protection Devices, a Farmingdale company that makes plugs, sockets, battery holders and other electronic devices, according to sources familiar with the case.
If convicted, Blaha faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison.