Life sentence rendered after case was before the courts for five years
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas––David Keith Wills, 68, former Michigan Humane Society executive director and vice president for investigations at the Humane Society of the U.S., was on September 22, 2020 formally sentenced to serve life in federal; prison.
Wills was convicted on October 8, 2019 of 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.
Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas also ordered Wills to pay $172,000 in restitution to the victim and $85,000 in fines.
“Wills destroyed her childhood”
“At the hearing, the court heard a statement from the minor victim detailing how Wills destroyed her childhood and caused her lifelong trauma,” said a media release from Assistant United States Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Explained a U.S. Department of Justice statement at the time of Wills’ multiple convictions, rendered after a 10-day jury trial, “The jury heard that from 2012 to 2015, Wills conspired with Maria Candalaria Losoya and trafficked a young girl,” specifically her daughter, “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 victim reported the convicted offenses to school authorities in April 2015. Wills and Losoya were initially charged in multiple Texas counties. The case was later transferred to federal jurisdiction.
“Justice delayed is justice denied”
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. More delay resulted from the September 28, 2018 appointment of the original federal prosecutor, Hugo R. Martinez, to the federal bench as Immigration Judge for the Fort Worth Immigration Adjudication Center.
Wills upon conviction was remanded to federal custody pending sentencing, and was at least initially held in solitary confinement.
Following Wills’ conviction, multiple delays of sentencing followed. Wills, who reportedly employed 12 attorneys during the course of his trial, unsuccessfully appealed multiple times seeking retrial and to be released from solitary confinement.
Multiple appeals followed conviction
Complained assistant U.S. attorney Ryan K. Patrick on January 15, 2020 to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, “The Defendant [Wills] was found guilty by a jury over three months ago. Since then, Defendant has filed three motions for new trial and intends to add additional grounds for a new trial in a separate filing. The fact that the Defendant may add additional grounds to his motion for new trial, whether as a ‘corrected motion’ or allegedly ‘newly discovered evidence,’ and might continue to do so, should not act to delay the enforcement of a just sentence.’”
But sentencing appears to have been additionally delayed by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which slowed court proceedings at all levels, throughout the country.
Judge Ramos in July 2020 rescheduled Wills’ sentencing for August 26, 2020, but almost another month elapsed before sentencing was actually rendered.
Accomplice got 15 years
Judge Ramos had on December 18, 2019 sentenced convicted accomplice Maria Candalaria Losoya, 58, previously of Brownsville, Texas, to serve the mandatory minimum of 15 years in federal prison. Losoya 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.
Judge Ramos noted at Losoya’s sentencing hearing that Losoya had provided valuable testimony at Wills’ trial of co-defendant David Keith Wills.
Like Wills, Losoya was ordered to pay restitution to the victim. Losoya was additionally ordered to serve five years of supervised release following completion of her prison term, during which time she is to comply with multiple requirements meant to restrict her access to children and the internet. She also must register as a sex offender.
A trip to Washington D.C.
Recounted the U.S. Department of Justice media statement issued after the Losoya sentencing, in almost the same words used in a release issued after the Wills sentencing, “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. 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.”
A longtime protégé of former Humane Society of the U.S. president John Hoyt, who headed HSUS from 1970 to 1997 and died in 2012, Wills was hired to head the Nashua Humane Society in New Hampshire in 1972 at Hoyt’s recommendation. Wills reportedly left in 1978 just before the board discovered that funds were missing. Horse and collie fancier/breeder Barbara Schwartz of Holland, New Hampshire, alleged in 1995 that Wills was also facing the threat of a statutory rape charge.
Michigan Humane Society
Hoyt then recommended Wills to the Michigan Humane Society, where Wills was executive director, 1979-1989. Wills resigned from Michigan Humane when the board began inquiring into the disappearance of $1.6 million. Book-keeper Denise Hopkins was eventually convicted of embezzling $56,000 of the missing sum. (See also Jean Marx, 85, set out to reform the Michigan Humane Society and ended up reshaping the Humane Society of the U.S.)
Wills next founded a short-lived entity called the National Society for Animal Protection, but dissolved it in 1991 upon becoming HSUS vice president for investigations.
The late longtime Michigan Humane Society volunteer and employee Sandra LeBost (1944-2007), of Royal Oak, Michigan, in June 1995 won a $42,500 judgment against Wills for non-repayment of loans he solicited in connection with starting the National Society for Animal Protection. LeBost was never able to collect the money.
David Wills & Wayne Pacelle
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.
Pacelle now heads the Los Angeles-based organization Animal Wellness Action.
Sued, fired, pleaded to embezzling
Three Humane Society of the U.S. employees including Kitty Block, HSUS president since February 2018, succeeding Pacelle, sued Wills in August 1995 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.
In June 1999 Wills pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling $18,900 from HSUS between 1990 and mid-1995; 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.
David Wills & Paul Irwin
Meanwhile, Wills in June 1995 married Lori J. White, a former member of the legislative staff of the late U.S. Representative Charlie Wilson (D-Texas), who was also ex-wife of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals cofounder Alex Pacheco.
The wedding was jointly performed in Mexico City by John Hoyt and then-Humane Society of the U.S. vice president Paul Irwin, both former clergymen.
Irwin succeeded Hoyt as Humane Society of the U.S. president, serving from 1997 until mid-2004. Irwin later headed the American Bible Society, but his contract was not renewed after New York Times technology writer Brad Stone extensively exposed his dealings with web developer Richard Gordon, whom Irwin also employed at HSUS, in a May 18, 2008 exposé entitled “An E-Commerce Empire, From Porn to Puppies.”
Formed animal use industry front group
Dealings involving both Wills and White contributed to the November 2006 election defeat of Republican Richard Pombo of California.” Pombo, who had chaired the House Resources Committee, reportedly became the first committee chairman in 20 years to lose a re-election bid, toppled by wind energy consultant Jerry McNerney, who had never before held public office.
The beginning of the end for Pombo came in October 2005, when Bob Williams of the Center for Public Integrity and Steve Henn of the American Public Media radio program Marketplace disclosed that Pombo “may have broken the law by not paying taxes on at least two foreign trips costing more than $23,000, paid for by the nonprofit International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources.”
The misleadingly named IFCNR was a front for animal use industries that “received donations from nearly three dozen funders from 2000 to 2004,” Williams and Henn said. “Most of the money came from the food, agriculture, or fur industries.”
Follow the money!
Major donors to the IFCNR donor included Darden Restaurants, owners of Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurant chains, then under boycott by the Humane Society of the U.S. and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society; the National Trappers Association; the International Fur Trade Association; Monsanto Corporation; the Japan Whaling Association; the Maryland Trappers Association; Caspian Star Caviar; Sysco Corporation; Smithfield Foods; Strauss Veal Company; and the University of Southern Mississipi.
The top individual donor to the IFCNR was Lori J. White. Wills, meanwhile, was listed in federal filings as an IFCHR director in 2000 and as the chief contact for the IFCNR in 2004.
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.
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.