U.S. officials said 47-year-old Kuldip “Kelly” Singh Mahal entered a guilty plea in Seattle District Court Tuesday after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors. The terms of the deal include a recommended sentence of between six-and-a-half and nine years in prison, though the judge can still choose to send Mahal away for up to 30 years. Mahal is scheduled to be sentenced on April 1, 2016.
SEATTLE – An Indo-Canadian youth soccer coach from Surrey pleaded guilty after being accused of travelling to Washington State to have sex with a young girl.
U.S. officials said 47-year-old Kuldip “Kelly” Singh Mahal entered a guilty plea in Seattle District Court Tuesday after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors.
The terms of the deal include a recommended sentence of between six-and-a-half and nine years in prison, though the judge can still choose to send Mahal away for up to 30 years.
Police said Mahal starting corresponding with an undercover agent he believed to be a 12-year-old girl in early 2015, and sent multiple sexually explicit messages and photos.
He also repeatedly asked for explicit photos in return, and engaged in “lengthy sexualized chats” on his phone, according to a release from the U.S. Justice Department.
Police said Mahal eventually crossed the border from Canada for a meeting at a park in Burlington last February, expecting to have sex, only to be arrested when he arrived.
“In three weeks’ time, the defendant went from responding to an online posting to traveling from Canada to Washington State to meet a minor for illicit sex,” Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Seattle Brad Bench said in a release at the time of Mahal’s arrest. “Fortunately, he was actually communicating with an undercover HSI special agent.“
The ad was posted in the “casual encounters” section of the Vancouver, B.C. Craigslist page on Jan. 15, saying “I’m a bit young and want to learn some things.”
“The defendant responded and was interested in engaging in elicit sexual conduct with agent posing as a minor,” said Agent Peter Ostrovsky with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
U.S. investigators say the sting was initiated by Homeland Security Investigators in Blaine, Wash., to target individuals who were using Craigslist to meet minors for sex.
According to court documents, an ad was placed in the “casual encounters” section of the Vancouver personals entitled “Crazy and very young.”
The text of the ad read, “I’m a bit young and I want to learn some new things. I have never experienced the things I want to, I am real and live in Burlington, Wash. I like to go to outlet stores at Tulalip!!”
The document alleges the ad was answered by a person using an anonymous Craigslist email identifying himself as “Jumbo Smith,” who, investigators allege, they later identified as Mahal.
U.S. authorities say the investigation was conducted under Homeland Security’s Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators.
Immigration authorities say 2,300 people were arrested last year alone by special agents under the initiative, and since its inception in 2003, more than 10,000 individuals have been arrested for crimes against children.
At the time of his arrest, Mahal was a facilities manager for a Vancouver tech firm and a volunteer coach of an under-16 soccer team in Surrey. The Surrey United Soccer Club suspended him after the allegations against him came to light.
At the time – United Soccer Club executive director Martin Foden told the media that Mahal, like all club personnel, had successfully cleared a criminal record check.
Foden said Mahal had been an exemplary soccer coach for 11 years.
“We do our normal due diligence with the 2,500 kids that go through our program,” he said.
“It’s shocking to us, whether we’re involved in soccer or not involved in soccer, whenever we hear allegations like this. We’ve all been moms and dads and we need to support and protect our children.”
Mahal is scheduled to be sentenced on April 1, 2016.