NEWARK, N.J. – A Somerville man made his initial court appearance by video conference Wednesday on charges that he enticed a minor over the internet to engage in sexual activity and traveled to the Philippines to engage in sex with the minor, according to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.

James A. Diggs, 44, of Somerville, is charged by complaint with one count of online enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity and one count of foreign travel to engage in criminal sexual activity. He made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre and was detained.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

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Between September 2018 and February 2019, Diggs used an online messaging application to persuade, induce, entice, and coerce “Minor Victim-1,” who was located in the Philippines, to engage in sexual activity.

During the communications, Diggs solicited Minor Victim-1 to engage in sexual acts with him in return for money or material objects. Diggs encouraged Minor Victim-1 to keep their relationship secret because Minor Victim-1 was underage. In October 2018, Diggs traveled from New Jersey to the Philippines to meet and engage in sexual activity with Minor Victim-1.

Diggs used an online messaging application to entice and coerce three other minor victims in the Philippines to engage in unlawful sex acts. Between February 2015 and February 2019, Diggs traveled to the Philippines on at least seven occasions.

The online enticement of a minor charge carries a maximum potential penalty of life in prison, a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years, and a $250,000 fine. The foreign travel to engage in criminal sexual activity charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, Newark Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jason Molina, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked agents of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, John F. Kennedy International Airport, for their assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Astorga of the Opioid Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark.