On September 18, 2023, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the district of New Jersey charged Louis Goldenberg, 41, of Philadelphia, with one count of Attempted Online Enticement of a Minor. Goldenberg appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sharon A. King in Camden federal court and was released on $100,000 unsecured bond.
These charges follow an investigation conducted by the Department of Homeland Security after Goldenberg is alleged to have responded to a post created by an undercover agent. This post was created on DoubleList, an adult personals website for people seeking hookups and dating experiences. DoubleList’s focus is to facilitate causal encounters and hookups between strangers. The undercover agent’s post was entitled “F@mily Adventures” and the description stated the poster was “looking for like-minded people who wanted to join in some family adventures. Not looking for anyone who uses drugs. Must be a nice person ;).”
After Goldenberg allegedly replied to the post on August 10, 2023, asking for more information, the undercover agent shared that she was ‘Grace’ the “aunt” of her 12-year-old niece, ‘Maddie.’ Goldenberg then allegedly expressed interest in engaging in sexual activity with the fictitious 12-year-old girl advertised by the undercover agent. Goldenberg and the undercover agent are then alleged to have communicated via the KIK phone app to arrange a time, location, and payment details for Goldenberg to engage in sexual conduct with the child. Goldenberg is also alleged to have admitted to watching “young videos” which the undercover agent took to mean Child Sexual Abuse Material or CSAM which is pornographic footage featuring underage children.
On September 18, 2023, Goldenberg traveled from Pennsylvania to the Mt. Laurel hotel in New Jersey where he had allegedly arranged to meet with ‘Grace’, the fictitious aunt, and the 12-year-old child. He was arrested upon arrival by DHS agents executing a probable cause arrest as he attempted to check in. Goldenberg was allegedly found to have been in possession of $300 in cash, which was the prior negotiated price settled on between Goldenberg and the undercover agent.
Attempting to entice a minor to engage in a commercial sex act is also punishable under the federal sex trafficking of children crime under 18 U.S.C. § 1591. Even though enticement and trafficking cover the same activities, the trafficking crime does not require the government to prove that the accused individual knew the minor was under 18 years of age, while providing for steeper sanctions if force, fraud, or coercion were used while enticing the minor into commercial sexual exploitation. The practical effect of this distinction is that the enticement crime is more lenient, and harder to prosecute, than the sex trafficking crime.
While the CSE Institute commends the agents and officers who are working to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Pennsylvania, we question the wisdom of charging an offense that is both more lenient and harder to prove and encourage prosecutors to use all relevant statutes that fit the alleged criminal activity. If federal prosecutors are committed to ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children, they should use the most effective tools at their disposal by charging sex trafficking of children in addition to enticement of a minor.
The CSE Institute will provide updates on this matter as they become available.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or Villanova University.