PARIS – Special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested a suspected pedophile photographed sexually abusing young boys in Southeast Asia after Interpol issued a global request for help.
Wayne Nelson Corliss, 58, was detained in Union City, N.J., on Thursday — just two days after Interpol made a rare appeal for the public's assistance in the international manhunt to catch him, the police agency said.
"Two days ago, this man's nationality, identity and location were totally unknown," said Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble in a press release. "All we had to go by were a series of graphic photographs in which the suspect was seen sexually abusing young children."
Corliss is suspected of molesting at least three boys from Southeast Asia thought to have been as young as 6 to 10 years old, the international police agency said.
"Their work and the incredible response from the public to Interpol's call for assistance made this arrest possible," Julie L. Myers, the ICE's Homeland Security assistant secretary, said in a press release. "All who value the safety and well-being of children should be heartened by this success."
Corliss, an actor who played Santa Claus and painted children's faces, is charged with producing child pornography and could face 10 to 20 years in federal prison if convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark. He was to appear in court Thursday afternoon.
Colleagues know Corliss, who acted under the stage name Casey Wayne, as a witty man who liked to write and eschewed 9-to-5 jobs in favor of acting and entertainment gigs — including painting faces and playing Santa Claus at parties, said Raven Squire, the superintendent of the Union City apartment building where Corliss has lived for more than a decade.
"He's a very amiable man, a great sense of wittiness," Squire said. "He seemed very stable, always paid his rent."
Interpol had asked for the public's help because two years of police investigations had failed to determine the man's identity, nationality and whereabouts.
It was only the second time that Interpol had launched such a public manhunt for a suspected pedophile. The first time, in October, led to the quick arrest by police in Thailand of Christopher Paul Neil, a 32-year-old Canadian.
Neil went on trial in March, accused of sexually abusing a 9-year-old boy.
Interpol said Wednesday that its appeal had produced more than 200 leads — potential names, locations and photos of the suspect — in the first 24 hours.
There were nearly 250,000 visits to the police agency's Web site within the first 24 hours of the request for the public's help, according to the ICE — more than 10 times the daily average for the site.
Photos seized by police in Norway in 2006 showed Corliss' alleged abuse, the international police agency said. He did not appear to make any effort to hide his identity in the photos seized from the computer of a man later convicted of child sex offenses, officials said.
Because of the lack of basic information about the man, Interpol officials had been simply calling the suspect "Mr. IDent" — shortened from the word identity.
Photos released by Interpol showed a gray-haired white man wearing glasses or lying on a checkered mattress or blanket in a yellow plaid shirt. Other photos seen by The Associated Press, not among those made public, appeared to show the man engaged in sexual acts with boys.
A computerized Interpol database of child abuse images played a part in the hunt for the man. The first photos seized in Norway and others received in the two years since were run through the database of more than 520,000 images.
In all, the database and police investigations helped turn up a total of around 800 images, including nearly 100 of the man himself and others of his suspected victims or places where he is thought to have committed his alleged crimes, Interpol said.
Interpol's child exploitation unit in Lyon, France, circulated the images it received from Norwegian police among its network of experts around the world in an effort to learn the man's identity.
ICE officers based in Newark, N.J., carried out Corliss' arrest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.