May 11, 2017-Acting United States Attorney Clifford D. Johnson announced that a 64 year old Chesterton man was sentenced to 292 months in prison for coercing a 12 year old girl to engage in unlawful sexual behavior. According to the statement. Willard Abatie of Chesterton “gained access to the girl by agreeing to help the girl’s mother facilitate a money laundering scheme.” Abate admitted to having sexual relations with the girl on ten occasions between March and December 2014. According to the release, case was investigated by the United States Department Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the assistance of the Hammond and East Chicago Police Departments.
The affidavit filed in the case lays out a lurid tale of international blackmail which ultimately resulted in the child exploitation. According to an affidavit filed in the case, the child’s mother, P.T., met a man named Owen George on the dating application Zoosk. “George expressed his love for her . . .then asked her to pick up money from other individuals to transfer for him.” P.T. forwarded money from 20 or 30 individuals to Nigeria until the incoming money stopped. When the money stopped, George told P.T. “then threatened P.T. that he would hire someone to kill her if she did not continue to send him $600 per month of her own money.”
P.T. then went to Abatie, whom she had met on Facebook and had a relationship with, in order to obtain the money to send to George according to Court documents. “Abatie agreed to help P.T. with the transfers on the condition that he would be allowed to have physical contact with [12 year old] Jane Doe every month.” P.T. personally observed at least two of these instances of sexual contact between the 12 year old girl and Abatie according to the affidavit.
According to the affidavit the 12 year old girl objected to the sex acts with Abatie but her mother, P.T. asked “her to “hold out” meaning go along with it until the money transfers were made.”