No bail in sex tourism case

December 8, 2008 8:38:08 PM PST
A wealthy Russian-born entrepreneur remains jailed on international child-sex charges while a U.S. judge who heard from dozens of supporters Monday ponders whether to release him to await trial.

Andrew Mogilyansky, 38, a Columbia University graduate now based in suburban Philadelphia, holds dual citizenship and owns several businesses valued at $10 million in 2004. He estimated his personal fortune two years later at $5.3 million.

U.S. prosecutors last week charged him with traveling to orphanages in his native country to molest young girls and hire them out as prostitutes.

After a three-hour detention hearing Monday, a federal magistrate said she needs more information to decide whether he is a flight risk or danger to society. The hearing will resume Wednesday.

Mogilyansky's name surfaced in a related Russian probe that ended with four recent convictions, U.S. authorities said. A U.S. investigator testified Monday that two people now imprisoned in Russia told her that Mogilyansky had paid money to keep his name out of that trial.

"Mr. Mogilyansky is a businessman. ... He is willing to buy his freedom," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Morgan-Kelly argued.

But defense lawyer George Newman said his client has known about the investigation for years and has not fled, despite opportunities to do so on his many trips abroad each year. Mogilyansky regularly travels to Russia, the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, France and other countries.

"He's had nearly five years to flee. He hasn't done that," Newman argued.

The charges stem from a single trip he took to Russia in late 2003-early 2004.

Mogilyansky's companies include a car export business that employs 35 people and a company that distributes fire extinguishing equipment. He lives in Richboro, Bucks County, with his wife and their three young children. His wife and six-month-old daughter were in the courtroom.

Newman argued that his client has strong ties to the Philadelphia area. But the judge noted that some of the people pledging support Monday were employees whose livelihoods depend on him.

The indictment unsealed last week accuses Mogilyansky of bringing three girls from an orphanage to his St. Petersburg apartment and molesting them during the 2003-04 trip. Authorities say he then recruited them into an online-based child prostitution business in Moscow.

When pressed by the judge, the prosecutor acknowledged there is no evidence he continues to run a prostitution ring. But she said nearly all pedophiles are repeat offenders, even if they are not caught.

Mogilyansky is also a founder of the International Foundation for Terror Act Victims. The group's Web site says it raises money for children injured in the school attacks in Beslan, Russia, in which more than 330 people died after a nearly three-day hostage standoff in 2004.

Mogilyansky had one victim, a 15-year-old girl, come with her parents to the U.S. last year to receive medical care, friend and board member Michael Ratner testified. They stayed at Mogilyansky's house, he said.

The charity is now under investigation, U.S. authorities said.

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