17-count conviction follows two-week trial; sentence pending
ROCKPORT, Texas––David Keith Wills, a former executive of four humane organizations including the Humane Society of the United States, faces a potential sentence of life in prison, following his conviction on October 8, 2019 by a U.S. federal court jury in Rockport, Texas on 17 counts pertaining to sexual abuse of a child.
The convicted charges, according to U.S. attorney Ryan K. Patrick, include one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor female, seven counts each of sex trafficking and coercion/enticement of a minor female, one count of attempted coercion/enticement, and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Jury convicted Wills on 17 counts after 10-day trial, 10 hours of deliberation
Wills faced 18 counts altogether, including “continuous sexual abuse of a child” and “continuous trafficking of a child.”
According to the statement issued by the U.S. Department of Justice for the Southern District of Texas, the jury deliberated for 10 hours before convicting Wills, after a 10-day trial.
Said the U.S. Department of Justice statement, “The jury heard that from 2012 to 2015, the aquaculture company owner [Wills] conspired with Maria Losoya and trafficked a young girl beginning when she was only 10 years of age. Losoya and Wills used their cell phones to arrange meetings at several different locations where Wills would sexually assault the victim. These included multiple Wills’ residences as well as Losoya’s in Brownsville and hotels and motels in the greater Corpus Christi area.
“The jury heard testimony that Wills promised to pay for the victim’s college tuition if Losoya allowed him to sexually assault the young girl,” the U.S. Department of Justice statement continued. “Wills also reimbursed Losoya for gifts to the victim and expenditures she would otherwise not have been able to afford. These included an iPad, Bose headphones, a flatscreen TV, Apple laptop, trampoline, swimming pool and a school trip to Washington D.C.
“Wills sexually assaulted the minor female multiple times until she reported it in April 2015. Losoya pleaded guilty in 2017 and testified at trial.
“The jury also heard from the forensic interviewer who first interviewed the victim about the sexual assaults, the nurse who first examined her, several state and federal law enforcement officers, and an expert witness who testified about Wills’ and Losoya’s cell site information. An eyewitness also described seeing the victim at a Portland [Texas] hotel where Wills and Losoya met in March 2014,” the U.S. Department of Justice statement added.
Destruction of evidence
“In addition,” the U.S. Department of Justice statement said, “the jury heard from Wills’ former personal assistant, who testified he asked her to hand over a personal computer on the day of the victim’s outcry. He later admitted it was destroyed to prevent law enforcement from seizing and reviewing it.
“Wills, who had a total of 12 attorneys representing him at trial, attempted to convince the jury Losoya only wanted more money,” the U.S. Department of Justice statement summarized.
The Wills defense team “tried to refute cell site location data as well as the nurse’s testimony,” recounted the U.S. Department of Justice statement. “They also criticized the victim’s previous statements. Wills took the stand and admitted having an affair with Losoya, but denied any sexual involvement with the victim.”
Defense witnesses attested to Wills’ character
Several dozen sources who have furnished information about David Wills to ANIMALS 24-7 over the past 30 years, during which time ANIMALS 24-7 exposed Wills’ activities many times in depth and detail, may be grimly amused that, “The jury heard from multiple defense witnesses attesting to the defendant’s character and successes,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice summary, “while attempting to contradict testimony Losoya and the victim gave.”
Concluded the U.S. Department of Justice release, “U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos presided over the trial. Previously released on bond, Wills was taken into custody following the verdict, where he will remain pending sentencing, which will be set at a later date.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zahra Fenelon, Rick Bennett and Stephanie Bauman were credited for prosecuting the case. The prosecution was delayed not only by alleged prosecution stalling tactics, including multiple unsuccessful appeals of procedural matters, but also by Hurricane Harvey, which in 2017 damaged the courthouse where the trial was to have been held just a few weeks later, and by the September 28, 2018 appointment of former federal prosecutor Hugo R. Martinez as Immigration Judge for the Fort Worth Immigration Adjudication Center.
Credited with leading the investigation of Wills were Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Brownsville Police Department , and the Texas Rangers, assisted by the FBI.
The victim was identified as the daughter of co-defendant Maria Candelaria Losoya.
Losoya, 58, of Brownsville, Texas, pleaded guilty on August 2, 2017 to one federal count of trafficking a minor for sexual purposes. Her sentencing was delayed until after the Wills trial.
Reported Michael Gibson of KIII-TV News in Corpus Christi, “It took some four years for David Wills to finally be brought to trial. Prosecutors wrapped up their case just before noon” on October 7, 2019, actually 55 months after Wills was initially charged.
“Well, he didn’t do it,” Wills’ defense attorney John Gilmore told Gibson as the jury began deliberations. “I mean, that’s our argument. Yep. It was an extortion attempt, so that’s our argument.”
Continued Gibson, “Prosecutors in their closing arguments told the jury that Losoya already pleads guilty to the sex trafficking of her own child, and that prosecutors had proven their case against Wills.
Gibson later reported that Wills’ defense team is already preparing to appeal his 17 convictions.
Wills was formerly president of the Nashua Humane Society, the Michigan Humane Society, and the National Society for Animal Protection, a short-lived organization that he founded. Wills later was vice president for investigations at the Humane Society of the United States.
Wills left each position amid allegations of misuse of funds.
Previous allegations of sexual misconduct arose at the Nashua Humane Society and the Humane Society of the U.S., but did not result in criminal charges.
The case leading to Wills’ conviction originated when Wills was arrested in Rockport, Texas, on April 13, 2015. The warrant alleged offenses in Cameron County, Texas, that were said to have occurred between July 2012 and November 2013.
State charges dropped to allow federal prosecution
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.
All of the state charges were eventually dropped, making way for prosecution of the federal indictment issued on June 29, 2017. The potential federal penalties are stronger than the Texas maximum.
Arrested in Corpus Christi, Texas, five days after the federal indictment was issued, Wills “was permitted release upon posting a $5 million bond,” U.S. district court spokesperson Angela Dodge told ANIMALS 24-7.
Co-defendant faces 15 years
Losoya, who like Wills was freed on bond, could receive “a minimum of 15 years and up to life in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine,” reported John Morgan, then editor of the apparently now defunct Coastal Bend Chronicle.
“Upon completion of any prison term imposed, Losoya also faces a maximum of life on supervised release during which time the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children. Losoya will also be required to register as a sex offender.”
ANIMALS 24-7 previously detailed Wills’ long history of previous brushes with the law on July 16, 2017, in Former HSUS vp David Wills hit with federal child sex charges.
Helped to arrange Pacelle hiring at HSUS
Wills at the Humane Society of the U.S. is believed to have helped to arrange the 1994 hiring of Wayne Pacelle as director of legislation.
Pacelle, who had been national director for the Fund for Animals, became HSUS president in 2004, and brokered the absorption of the Fund for Animals into HSUS six months later.
Pacelle resigned in February 2018 after being accused of sexual harassment of employees and of having promoted another staff member, Paul Shapiro, who had been accused of sexual harassment, instead of effectively disciplining him.
Wills’ tenure at the Humane Society of the U.S. meanwhile ended with a 1996 conviction for embezzling and an out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit brought by three HSUS employees who sued him for sexual harassment––one of whom, Cristobel “Kitty” Block, on February 2, 2018 ascended to the HSUS presidency, succeeding Pacelle.
Big shrimp in small pond
Wills, for at least four years after leaving the Humane Society of the U.S., was associated in various capacities with the International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, a front for animal use industries including whalers, sealers, vealers, and fur trappers.
Wills later became involved in a series of shrimp farming ventures.
One of those projects, in South Africa, reportedly lost $42 million without ever getting into commercial scale production, and became central to criminal allegations involving a corporation then called Bosasa.
Now called African Global Operations, Bosasa was endorsed and promoted by political figures including leaders of the ruling African National Congress party.