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USC 'fully cooperating' in FBI probe of ex-professor, school says

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USC is "fully cooperating" with federal authorities investigating an ex-professor accused of child sex crimes who was placed on the FBI's Most Wanted list, university officials said.

In a statement issued Tuesday, USC confirmed that Walter Lee Williams, 64, taught anthropology, history and gender studies at the university but left in February 2011.

"The FBI has informed us that at this time there is no evidence that any of his alleged illegal activities were associated with the university or took place on campus," the statement said.

On Monday, Williams became the 500th person named to the list, FBI officials said. He faces charges of sexual exploitation of children, traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places.

Bureau officials said they had identified at least 10 alleged victims between the ages of 9 and 17. Many live in Third World countries, officials said, adding that Williams has traveled extensively or lived across Southeast Asia and Polynesia, including the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.

"Because of his status he has the means and access to children, and that's what makes him dangerous," FBI Special Agent Jeff Yesensky said in a video released by the agency. "He preys on the most vulnerable children."

A four-count federal indictment filed April 30 outlines alleged crimes involving two 14-year-old boys authorities say Williams met online in 2010. He allegedly "engaged in sexual activity via Internet webcam sessions with these boys and expressed a desire to visit them in the Philippines to have sex," the FBI said in a statement.

Williams went to the Philippines in January 2011, where he allegedly engaged in "sexually explicit conduct" with the boys, took photos of the encounters and brought the photos back to Los Angeles County, the indictment said. He fled Los Angeles after agents questioned him, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

Eimiller said investigators had not ruled out additional charges.

Williams, an author, received several accolades for his work, including the USC General Education Outstanding Teacher Award in 2006, according to a university Web page that's since been taken down. He was also recognized for his work with the gay and lesbian community.

According to another website describing Williams' work, "his other main research focus is on sexuality in the Southeast Asia/Pacific region."

Williams is described as 5 feet 9, 180 pounds, with grayish-brown hair and brown eyes. He was affiliated with an L.A.-based group known as the Buddhist Universal Assn., the FBI said, and may travel to Mexico or Peru.

The FBI has offered a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading directly to his arrest.

Of the 500 people named to the FBI's Most Wanted list over its 63 years, 469 have been apprehended or located, the FBI said.

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kate.mather@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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