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NORFOLK, Va. — An investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations Norfolk, commonly called HSI Norfolk, led to the Dec. 12 conviction of a Norfolk man on charges of traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor. Charles Willoughby III, 39, who served as a youth group leader at New Life Worship Center in Norfolk, faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for his offenses.

According to the HSI Norfolk investigation, from 2006 to 2012, Willoughby routinely groomed minor teenage girls who were part of the church’s youth program to attempt to sexually abuse them.

“This conviction sends an important message to all predators: HSI will use all of our resources to ensure that crimes against children will not go unpunished,” said Derek W. Gordon, acting special agent in charge of HSI Washington. “HSI is dedicated to protecting our most vulnerable population against sexual predators who seek to take advantage of their innocence. Working with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to aggressively protect children by diligently investigating sexual offenses involving minors.

On June 26, 2012, a 15-year-old girl identified only as Jane Doe and other youth group members traveled by bus from the New Life Worship Center to Georgia for a national church youth group conference.

Willoughby served as a chaperone, and on the bus, he forced Jane Doe to engage in a sexual act. The girl did not disclose the abuse until 2018, and other victims were identified after that disclosure.

“I commend this victim for coming forward to disclose the abuse she suffered,” said Jim Stitzel, assistant special agent in charge of HSI Norfolk. “HSI supports victims of sexual abuse and encourages them to contact law enforcement, regardless of whether the abuse was recent or in the past.”

Willoughby’s sentencing is scheduled for April 19, 2023.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free tip line at 866-347-2423. This phone line is staffed around the clock. From outside the United States and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users may call TTY 802-872-6196.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. attorney’s offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 6,800 special agents assigned to 225 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents the Department of Homeland Security’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

ICE breaking news HSI Norfolk investigation leads to sexual abuse conviction of Virginia church youth group leader Government Agency News