By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Carried out largely behind the scenes and left untouched by the daily media, it came with claims by Bredimus of corruption by Thai officials and a daring but clumsy attempt by him to fight back with extralegal means of his own.
From his jail cell in Seagoville, federal investigators suspect Bredimus directed an extensive campaign to bribe or intimidate Thai witnesses in advance of his trial, the Dallas Observerhas learned. That push, which he conducted behind the back of his own defense lawyer, ended up entangling his wife and 32-year-old son in obstruction of justice allegations and sparked a wider federal investigation that apparently continues to this day.
Beyond the international intrigue, Bredimus' story is also one of lives shattered by a revelation. Until he pleaded guilty last fall, nobody near Bredimus--neither his accomplished family, nor his business associates, nor his friends from the top ranks of Dallas business--had the slightest clue that this successful, law-abiding businessman was driven to travel to the ends of the earth to break society's uttermost sexual taboos.
Viewed up close, says his son, the story is "a nightmare, a freaking nightmare."
Mills, who takes mostly high-fee white-collar cases and is best known for winning former Dallas Public Schools trustee Dan Peavy an acquittal on bribery and money laundering charges five years ago, had his work cut out. But he had a number of things with which to build a defense, starting with the quality of Thai police work.
Shortly after his arrest, Bredimus posted a cash bond of more than $7,000, surrendered his U.S. passport and was ordered to return on November 13, 2001, to local court in Chiang Rai, the provincial capital. Bredimus returned to Bangkok and immediately began taking steps to leave the country instead.
He walked into the U.S. Embassy on November 7 and applied for a new passport, lying on a written statement that he had lost his in a taxi on a trip between two Bangkok hotels. Two days later, he turned in another application, saying his passport was being held by police in Chiang Rai, but he didn't say why.
The same day Bredimus was scheduled to appear in court, he left the country--using yet another passport he'd acquired on the black market under an assumed name. "He was scared to death Thailand wouldn't let him out under his name," says one source with close knowledge of the case.
Little did Bredimus know that the case was about to follow him home.
Only three days after his arrest, the head of a Thai charity, Fight Against Child Exploitation, and the Thai government-sponsored Thailand Criminal Law Institute informed U.S. Customs officials in Bangkok that Bredimus had been arrested for sexual misconduct with minors. Within two days, two American investigators set off for Chiang Rai to interview police and all the child victims.
An 11-year-old, identified in a detective's sworn affidavit as Victim 1, said a local man approached him and introduced him and two other boys to Pensri, who told them a "farang," a Western foreigner, wanted to take their photographs. Bredimus took them one at a time to a bathroom where they stripped, and he took their photos. He sent one--a 12-year-old--home, telling him that he didn't want him because he was missing a toe.
A local woman brought two more victims to Bredimus' waiting room, and a sixth child was on the scene when the police arrived. In all, three boys were subjected to the more extensive molestations, including Victim 1, who is caught on the video beginning to cry as the "farang" puts his finger in his backside.
The tape and interviews launched an unprecedented and fast-moving scramble at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Dallas to put the arm of an untested and seldom-used U.S. law around Bredimus and charge him here for criminal sex acts he allegedly committed abroad. The Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Act of 1994 made it illegal for a U.S. citizen to leave the country with the intent of sexually abusing minors in foreign countries. It had been passed along with other, far more heavily publicized bills taking aim at sexual predators in the United States following a string of headline-grabbing crimes.
"There's no doubt that if you look at the history of the law, it's as strong as pepper that this is exactly the kind of conduct it was meant to reach," says Linda Groves, the assistant U.S. attorney who took up the case in Dallas. Groves, a veteran prosecutor who won convictions against thieving savings-and-loan officials such as Tom Gaubert a decade ago, began developing expertise in cyber-crime and child pornography as the technology caught on in the mid-1990s.