Federal Trial Date For Sierra Vista Man Accused Of Seeking Sex With Minor

HSI AGENT POSED AS YOUNG TEEN TO TRACK ONLINE PREDATORS

A Sierra Vista man arrested in November during a multi-agency operation that targeted online predators is set to stand trial this summer in U.S. District Court on charges that he sought to have sex with a 14-year-old girl who was actually a federal agent.

David Andrew Thomas Suitts was formally arraigned Dec. 20 on one count of attempted enticement for seeking to engage in sexual conduct with a minor. He has until May 15 to accept a plea deal offered by the U.S. Attorney’s Office or stand trial in June.

Suitts, 28, was taken into custody Nov. 9, 2019 at a Sierra Vista location where federal authorities say he expected to meet a 14-year-old girl he believed he was communicating with via an internet chat program and cellphones. Some of the messages included sexually explicit comments and questions about the girl’s sexual experience.

Recently unsealed court records show Suitts traveled from his home in Sierra Vista to a nearby locations “for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts.” Suitts told investigators in a post-Miranda statement he had no intention of actually engaging in sex with the girl “even if she was willing to,” according to a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

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Suitts is out of custody pending trial, although he is subject to several court-ordered restrictions of his travel, activities, and use of the internet and smart phones.

Since early 2019, at least 11 men have been arrested in Cochise County as part of multi-agency operations which target adults who express an interest in having sex contact with children. Several agencies have taken part in the operations, including HSI, Sierra Vista Police Department, Cochise County Attorney’s Office, and Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Nine men were arrested in February 2019 during Operation Whiteout after showing up at various locations in Cochise County to meet with children ages 14 and under. Trials are scheduled this spring in federal court for two of the men, Joseph Montgomery and Scott E. Hamsher, while three defendants – Kevin L. Echternach, Joshua M. Davilla, and Teofilo V. Lopez Jr.- await trial on state charges in Cochise County Superior Court.

Another man, Wayne Eugene Hawkins, is undergoing an evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial. Several other men accepted plea deals and have already been sentenced.