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Saturday, June 19, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO / Financier indicted on charges of molesting kids in Thailand, Mexico

SAN FRANCISCO / Financier indicted on charges of molesting kids in Thailand, Mexico

SAN FRANCISCO
Financier indicted on charges of molesting kids in Thailand, Mexico

Bob Egelko and Elizabeth Fernandez, Chronicle Staff Writers
Saturday, June 19, 2004
Federal prosecutors have unsealed an indictment charging multimillionaire San Francisco financier Robert F. White with traveling to Thailand and Mexico to molest and exploit children.

The grand jury indictment, reported by The Chronicle in April, accuses the 68-year-old White of conspiring to violate the so-called child sex tourism law. That law prohibits traveling from the United States to other countries to have sex with minors, even if the sexual activity is legal where it took place. He also is charged with conspiring to produce child pornography.

Besides imprisonment, prosecutors seek forfeiture of homes owned by White in Thailand and Mexico, or if the foreign properties cannot be seized, then of two buildings in San Francisco.

White has been jailed in Bangkok since February 2003 fighting extradition to Mexico, where he is charged with child sex abuse, child prostitution and providing drugs to minors. A ruling on extradition is due from a Thai court next Friday. He also has been sued for damages by some of his alleged victims -- all of them young males -- in U.S. District Court in San Francisco and in state court.

One of those plaintiffs, Daniel Garcia, now 21, said Friday he never thought he would see the day that White was charged in the United States.

"It's been such an uphill battle for two years,'' said Garcia, who helped to set the federal investigation in motion and has traveled the world on behalf of White's alleged victims. "For someone who has such wealth and power as Tom White, it's amazing that this is happening to him. It's good to know that the wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn.''

White's attorney, Stuart Hanlon, predicted his client would be acquitted.

"It appears that this is part of the U.S. Justice Department's ... making legal decisions based on what they view as moral,'' Hanlon said. "It's the religious right-wing agenda of John Ashcroft. This administration feels we're the police of the world.''

White, an investor and stockbroker, founded Thomas F. White & Co. in 1978. The Chronicle reported in 2002 that he had apparently funded a children's school and shelter in a Thai resort area and paid to build an orphanage, a school and an adjoining 53-site resort hotel south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

According to the indictment, dated March 23 and unsealed Thursday, White conspired with unnamed individuals to travel to Mexico between 1999 and 2001, and to Thailand between 2000 and 2003, to molest juveniles.

The conspirators provided "food, shelter, gifts and other material objects'' to the youths in Thailand and made and shared photographs of them, the indictment said. It also described a December 2001 e-mail in which another conspirator allegedly discussed creating a room next to a children's room in Thailand for White to have sex.

The private damage suit against White, which is still pending, alleges that he used food, shelter and gifts to lure poor children - some living on the street, others working as prostitutes - to his house about 50 miles south of Bangkok, where he and his friends would have sex with them.

No one else was charged in the indictment. White's personal assistant, Nathan Lovaas of Modesto, was indicted last September on similar federal charges.


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