Wills remains in custody facing state charges filed in 2015
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas––David K. Wills, former Humane Society of the U.S. vice president for investigations and former president of the Michigan Humane Society, was on Friday, July 14, 2017 arrested in Corpus Christi, Texas on a federal indictment issued on June 29, 2017 charging him with allegedly trafficking a minor for sexual purposes.
The new indictment against Wills expands to the federal level charges already pending against Wills since 2015.
Wills was scheduled for an arraignment and detention hearing on July 20, 2017 before Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington.
Wills remains in custody
The new charges said to have been brought against Wills came while Wills remained in custody, facing related charges brought in several jurisdictions under Texas state law.
Federal charges, if successfully prosecuted, could significantly increase the likelihood that Wills, 64, may spend the remainder of his life in prison. An apparently similar federal case involving two Texas defendants concluded on July 14, 2017 in Houston with both defendants receiving 262-month prison terms, equivalent to 21 years plus eight months.
Specifics of the federal law
According to the U.S. Department of Justice web site Citizen’s Guide to U.S. Federal Law on the Prostitution of Children, 18 U.S.C. § 1591 “makes it a federal offense to knowingly recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, or maintain a minor (defined as someone under 18 years of age) knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the victim is a minor and would be caused to engage in a commercial sex act. ‘Commercial sex act’ is defined very broadly to include ‘any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.'”
Adds the Citizen’s Guide to U.S. Federal Law on the Prostitution of Children, “Most people think of ‘trafficking’ as involving movement across state or international borders. However, Section 1591 does not require proof that either the defendant or victim crossed state or international lines.
“Not less than 15-to-life”
“When the victim is a minor,” the Citizen’s Guide to U.S. Federal Law on the Prostitution of Children continues, “Section 1591 does not require proof that the defendant used force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion, or any combination of those means, to cause the minor to engage in a commercial sex act.
“Section 1591 applies equally to American children (U.S. citizens or residents) who are prostituted within the United States, as well as foreign nationals (persons not a U.S. citizen or resident) who are brought into the United States and are then caused to engage in prostitution. The law also criminalizes any person who conspires or attempts to commit this crime,” explains the Citizen’s Guide to U.S. Federal Law on the Prostitution of Children.”
“If the victim was under the age of 14 or if force, fraud, or coercion were used, the penalty is not less than 15 years in prison up to life,” the Citizen’s Guide stipulates.
Alleged offenses began in 2012
Obtaining updates on the long-running related Wills prosecutions has been difficult because of the involvement of a minor.
Cases against Wills for alleged felonies including continuous sexual abuse of a child and continuous trafficking of a child have been before the courts since April 13, 2015, when Wills was arrested in Rockport, Texas, on a warrant alleging offenses in Cameron County, Texas said to have occurred between July 2012 and November 2013.
Parallel charges against Wills were filed later in 2015 in Nueces and San Patricio counties, also in Texas, alleging offenses involving the same parties said to have occurred between November 2013 and December 2014.
Cameron County in March 2016 dropped the original charges, “without prejudice, pending resolution of charges in Nueces County and San Patricio County,” the court filing stated, but Cameron County reserved “the right to re-indict.”
Reported Krista M. Torralva of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times at that time, “State District Judge Jose Longoria issued a gag order barring the lawyers in the Nueces County case from commenting.”
Summarized Bart Bedsole of KRIS-TV in November 2015, “Wills and a woman from Brownsville,” Maria Candalaria Losoya, then 53, “are accused of forcing a female under the age of 14 to perform a long list of sexual acts including prostitution.”
Alleged acts began when child was nine
Elaborated the Brownsville police department web site, “The warrant stemmed from an investigation that was initiated on April 8, 2015 from an outcry made to school officials by the victim. The victim alleged being sexually assaulted for several years by a male identified as David Wills while Losoya watched. Investigators were able to obtain enough evidence to obtain warrants for both.”
Authorities have alleged that the acts began when the victim was nine years old when the charged offenses began, and that she is believed to be related to Losoya.
Might face life on Texas charges
Independent of federal charges, Wills might already have potentially been facing life in prison, but only if convicted of particular combinations of offenses.
Under Texas’ “three strikes” law, in effect since 1952, Wills could have been imprisoned for life if he had been convicted of separate felonies in each of three counties. That possibility was apparently removed when the Cameron County charges were dropped.
But Wills could also be sent to prison for life if convicted of three separate felonies in the two counties in which he remained charged.
Or Wills could, at least in effect, be sent to prison for life if convicted of any of the felonies for which he was charged in Nueces and San Patricio counties, with no plea-bargaining of the original charges down to misdemeanors. The human trafficking charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in Texas; continuous sexual abuse of a child carries a sentence of 25 to 99 years.
Protege of former HSUS president
Wills was hired in 1972 at recommendation of then-Humane Society of the U.S. president John Hoyt to head the Nashua Humane Society in New Hampshire. Wills reportedly left that post in 1979 just before the board discovered that funds were missing.
Hoyt then recommended Wills to the Michigan Humane Society, where Wills was executive director from 1979 to 1989. Wills resigned from Michigan Humane when the board began inquiring into the disappearance of $1.6 million. Bookkeeper Denise Hopkins was later convicted of embezzling $56,000 of the missing sum.
Sued for sexual harassment at HSUS
Wills next founded a short-lived entity called the National Society for Animal Protection. He dissolved it in 1991 upon becoming HSUS vice president for investigations. The late Sandra LeBost of Royal Oak, Michigan, in June 1995 won a $42,500 judgment against Wills for non-repayment of loans made to help him start NSAP. She was never able to collect the money.
In August 1995, three HSUS employees sued Wills for alleged sexual harassment and embezzling. Suspended by HSUS soon afterward, Wills was fired in November 1995.
Wills countersued the HSUS employees who sued him. Those cases were settled out of court in mid-1998.
Pleaded guilty to embezzling
In June 1999 Wills pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling $18,900 from HSUS between 1990 and mid-1995. Wills agreed to pay restitution of $67,800 to HSUS, and accepted a six-month jail sentence. HSUS and the State of Maryland agreed to drop six other counts of embezzlement, alleging thefts of $84,128.
The Wills case appeared to traumatize HSUS into adopting and for a time enforcing much stricter policies pertaining to ethics.
HSUS cleaned house, for a time
But those policies were apparently ignored with the 2011 elevation of financier Arthur E. Benjamin, founder of an entity called American Dog Rescue Inc., to the HSUS National Council.
Benjamin until mid-2011 headed ATI Enterprises, also known as the ATI Career Training Centers, which was already facing federal False Claims Act charges, and in August 2013 agreed to pay $3.7 million to settle those allegations, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Benjamin had also “been sued for sexual assault, rape, and harassment on at least four occasions,” the animal use industry front HumaneWatch detailed on August 2, 2016, posting links to several court documents pertaining to the cases, all of which ended in settlements.
Trouble at HSUS continued
The HumaneWatch exposé appeared about a year after Benjamin left the HSUS National Council, but while HSUS was internally resolving yet another set of allegations alleging sexual harassment by staff, in that instance among mid-level personnel.
Benjamin meanwhile went on to form Dogs for Donald, an entity that boosted the Donald Trump campaign for U.S. president despite the lack of any pro-animal activity of note on Trump’s part either before or after being elected.
Wills went on to work for animal use industries
Wills, after his association with HSUS ended, resurfaced in 2000-2004 in connection with the International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, a front for animal use industries funded by entities including the Red Lobster restaurant chain, the National Trappers Association, the International Fur Trade Association, and Monsanto Corporation, the leading maker of bovine somatotropin, a synthetic hormone used to artificially boost the amount of milk given by cows.
Other donors included the Japan Whaling Association, the Maryland Trappers Association, Smithfield Foods, and the Strauss Veal Company.
Wills later promoted several controversial ventures into shrimp farming one of which, SeaArk, reportedly spent more than $42 million without getting beyond “pilot” development. Wills acknowledged in 2015 that another of his shrimp farming projects, Global Blue Technologies, based in Rockport, Texas, had performed below investor expectations.