Sex with minors, not just fishing, was part of the tour in Brazil’s Amazon, according to filings in a lawsuit brought against a Georgia man that state he is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.
Richard W. Schair, who ran fishing tours to Brazil for U.S. customers, filed papers in federal court July 7 in an effort to delay a lawsuit. The papers refer to investigations by both U.S. and Brazilian authorities. In the lawsuit filed in federal court in Gainesville, Georgia, the plaintiffs said he used alcohol, drugs and promises of money to lure girls aboard a fishing boat, the Amazon Santana.
“Once the girls were on the boat, they were coerced into performing sex acts with Schair and his customers,” states the June 14 lawsuit against Schair by four unidentified Brazilian women who said they were victims of sex trafficking involving his fishing tours. The plaintiffs said the “impoverished” girls, one of them age 12 at the time, were exploited by the U.S. tourists.
The documents filed by Schair included a June 25 subpoena for him to appear before a federal grand jury in Florida that requested travel records from Schair, his Wet-A-Line Tours LLC and his ex-wife, Amelia Karr, who was president of the fishing operation. They also included a Dec. 16 Justice Department letter to Karr, asking for her cooperation in a case linking her with “child sex tourism in Brazil.”
Documents from Brazilian prosecutors, translated into English from Portuguese, filed by Schair, state there is photographic and video evidence that includes “numerous images of Brazilian women in sexual poses within the vessels and in the company of foreign tourists” between 2005 and 2007.
Schair presented U.S. and Brazilian documents as evidence that he’s under federal criminal investigation, and said that the existence of the criminal case legally justifies putting off the related civil case.
Schair, who is also listed as president and chief executive officer of Gainesville, Georgia-based real estate firm Schair & Associates Inc., didn’t immediately return a telephone call and e-mail message seeking comment. Schair’s motion to stay didn’t contain a denial of the charges.
His filing in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia was aimed toward staying the lawsuit by the Brazilian women. New York-based human-rights group Equality Now said it initiated the lawsuit, which it said represented the first time victims have used the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to seek damages from sex tours.
“We hope it sends a loud and clear message to all sex tour operators in the United States that sex trafficking victims anywhere can bring a case against those who exploit them by pressing for damages in the U.S.,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, the group’s executive director, in a June 14 statement. Equality Now officials couldn’t be reached for comment today on Schair’s court filing.
Calls to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Florida office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida requesting confirmation of a criminal case weren’t immediately returned.
An online advertisement for Wet-A-Line says it “specializes in safely putting YOU in exotic locations for fishing trips and vacations to Mexico and Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest.”
Earlier, Schair filed a libel lawsuit against MSNBC.com unit Newsvine Inc. after the media site published reports linking him to Brazilian sex tourism. He voluntarily dismissed the case in 2009, according to court records.
The New York Times reported the Justice Department investigation against Schair earlier.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jesse Hamilton in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: