San Diego realtor Michael E. Lustig pleaded guilty in federal court July 31 to prostitution-related crimes, admitting that he paid for sex with a 13-year-old girl on several occasions.
Lustig, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in October of 2013, entered his plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin. (At that time Lustig was reported to be a Rancho Santa Fe resident.) Sentencing was set for Nov. 3, 2014, at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez.
According to court records, Lustig, 70, was first contacted in June of 2012 by San Diego Sheriff’s deputies during an operation targeting customers of prostitution in the Encinitas area. At the time that Lustig was arrested, deputies seized two cellular telephones which led to information that he had been in contact with two minor females.
Interviews with the minors revealed that Lustig had contacted them separately to engage in commercial sex activity. One of the minors was 11 years old at the time that sexual activity began with Lustig, and the other was 13 years of age. According to court records, surveillance video from a motel in El Cajon, Calif., showed Lustig entering a motel room with one of the minors and emerging 43 minutes later. According to court records, Lustig had contacted the minors multiple times over a span of multiple months. Interviews with the minors confirmed that Lustig, known to them as “George,” had paid them for sexual activity and that at least one of the minors had identified herself as a minor.
In the plea agreement, Lustig admitted that he used a cellular telephone to contact the 13-year-old minor on multiple occasions between at least October 2011 and June 2012, seeking to engage in commercial sex activity. Lustig admitted that he thereafter engaged in commercial sex activity with the minor, paying the minor in return for sexual activity.
For example, according to the plea agreement, Lustig admitted that on Oct. 15, 2011, he wrote the minor, asking, “Hey, is the bookstore open? I’m in desperate need of books rite now.” Lustig admitted in court that he was using code for commercial sex activity. On Nov. 11, 2011, Lustig wrote the same minor, “U free sometime in the next 2 hours?” and “Any chance for library in 35 min, @ 7:15?”
Lustig again admitted that he used code to recruit the minor for commercial sex activity. On June 8, 2012, Lustig wrote the minor simply “Bookstore?” meaning that he wanted to establish a date for commercial sex activity.
“The United States will vigorously pursue any adult preying on children for sexual activity,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “Defendants like Michael Lustig victimize the most vulnerable population in our community—children—and these predators will be brought to justice.”
“A predator is off our streets today and can’t victimize the innocents,” said Sheriff Bill Gore. “This investigation showcases the success of collaborative federal and local investigations working toward the common good.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge, Daphne Hearn, commented, “The average age of a child targeted for prostitution is between the ages of 12 to 14 for girls and 11 to 13 for boys. As a result, the FBI will remain vigilant and continue our efforts to protect our nation’s children from sexual predators by working with our law enforcement partners and removing these individuals from society through the justice system.”
On Oct. 23, 2013, a federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging Lustig with two counts of sex trafficking of a minor in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591, and criminal forfeiture.
— FBI press release