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3-D printed gun crusader Cody Wilson arrested in Taiwan on sexual assault charge

Cody Wilson poses for a portrait in the Defense Distributed office in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. The founder of Defense Distributed, Wilson has been in a long legal dispute regarding his ability to post the instructions to create 3-D printed firearms on his website. (Lynda M. Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman/TNS)

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan authorities have arrested and jailed the owner of a Texas company that sells blueprints for untraceable 3-D printed guns and who is wanted on suspicion of sex with a minor, a Taiwanese immigration agency spokesman said.

The Taiwan National Immigration Agency said Cody R. Wilson was arrested Friday at a Taipei hotel after the U.S. government voided his passport.

Taiwan immigration officials now are “negotiating” with the de facto American embassy in Taipei on how to proceed on deporting Wilson to the United States, a spokesman for the agency said.

Because Wilson’s passport is now invalid, he has no “legal basis” to stay in Taiwan under local laws, the agency said in a statement.

Washington and Taipei do not have an extradition treaty that would facilitate a deportation, but the two governments do cooperate on security issues and U.S. relations with Taiwan have improved under President Donald Trump.

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“Our agency will coordinate with the American Institute in Taiwan (de facto embassy) to arrange for the travel documents to be issued as soon as possible and arrange for his return to his country as soon as possible in an appropriate manner,” the statement said.

Authorities suspect that Wilson began talking to the 16-year-old girl on sugardaddymeets.com, which says that it requires users to be at least 18. The pair began exchanging messages before texting, according to the arrest affidavit.

At first, the victim did not know who Wilson was or how he had stirred a national debate over gun rights. She became curious and started researching online after Wilson told her he was a “big deal,” the affidavit said.

In the affidavit, Shaun Donovan, an Austin police officer, said Wilson met the victim around 8 p.m. on Aug. 15 at a coffee shop and then drove to a hotel where they had sex.

Video surveillance footage shows the pair stepping from an elevator on the seventh floor of the Archer Hotel and entering a room at around 8:37 p.m., according to the affidavit.

Shortly after entering the room, Wilson had sex with the victim and then paid her $500 in cash, the affidavit said. They left the hotel together about 45 minutes later.

It’s unclear why Wilson, who travels frequently for work, came to Taiwan.

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Police began investigating Wilson on Aug. 22 when the victim’s counselor tipped them off about the alleged sexual assault.

Investigators said Wilson left the country shortly after a friend informed him that the victim had spoken to police.

“The internet has created a whole new wave of potential places for predators and for people to be victimized,” Austin Police Department Cmdr. Troy Officer said at a news conference this week.

The suspect’s company is being sued by 19 U.S. states over its plan to disseminate blueprints for the guns, and a federal judge in August temporarily blocked the release of the blueprints.

There’s currently no mandate for licensing the 3-D guns, which are created using special printers that can cost thousands of dollars, and gun-control advocates say the guns can be created without serial numbers, making them difficult to trace.

In 2013, the Obama administration ordered Wilson to remove the blueprints from the internet, but the State Department under President Trump reversed course in June, giving Wilson’s company the go-ahead and prompting fierce backlash from gun-control advocates.

The ruling in August extends a temporary restraining order, which was issued on July 31.

Wilson faces a potential 20-year prison sentence if convicted of sexual assault.

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(Special correspondent Jennings reported from Taiwan. Times staff writer Etehad reported from Los Angeles.)

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© 2018 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.