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Wisconsin man pleads guilty to sex crime with Bemidji area girls

A Wisconsin man pleaded guilty Monday to traveling to Minnesota intending to have sex with minors.

Gabriel Vitali Matthias, 28, of Madison, Wis., appeared before United States District Court Judge Donovan Frank to the charge of traveling in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. He pleaded guilty to one count of the charge after admitting that on Feb. 16, 2009, he traveled from California to Minnesota for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with two female minors.

Matthias was indicted for this crime Jan. 12, 2010. He also admitted that on April 18, 2009, he traveled from Madison to Roseville, Mich., for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with another girl younger than 18.

According to an FBI affidavit filed in the case, authorities first learned of Matthias' illegal activity after one of the minors involved in the Feb. 16, 2009, incident reported that Matthias had traveled from the west coast to see her. The two girls met Matthias through the Internet in 2008, and they eventually began communicating with him by telephone and text messaging. Many of those communications were of a sexual nature.

In January or February 2009, Matthias told the girls he was moving from California to Wisconsin and asked to meet them in Minnesota. On Feb. 16, Matthias picked up one of the girls, who was 13 at the time, and provided her with alcohol before taking her to a Bemidji motel room, where he engaged in sexual acts with her.

Later that night, Matthias and the 13-year-old left the motel to pick up the second girl, who was 14 at the time. Matthias gave both girls alcohol and drove them back to the motel. They attempted to enter the building through a rear entrance but were scared off by a security guard. Matthias took the 13-year-old girl home. Then, while driving the 14-year-old home, he engaged in sexual conduct with her. In addition, Matthias traveled to Roseville, Mich., April 18, 2009, for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a different girl younger than 18.

Matthias was arrested May 1, 2009, in Madison, Wis., and extradited to Minnesota.

For his crime, he faces a potential maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Judge Frank will determine his sentence at a future date, yet to be scheduled.

This case is the result of an investigation by the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office, Cass County Sheriff's Office and the FBI, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service, the MadisonPolice and the U.S. Attorney offices from the Western District of Wisconsin and the Eastern District of Michigan. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Otteson.

-- Molly Miron