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Originally published November 4, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 4, 2007 at 2:06 AM

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Lake Tapps pilot charged with sexually abusing boys

A wealthy Lake Tapps pilot was arrested in Atlanta Thursday, a day after Pierce County sheriff's detectives searched his waterfront home...

Seattle Times staff reporter

A wealthy Lake Tapps pilot was arrested in Atlanta Thursday, a day after Pierce County sheriff's detectives searched his waterfront home and seized more than 100 videotapes and DVDs they say show him sexually abusing and torturing at least 20 boys and teens.

Weldon Marc Gilbert was arrested at a hotel in Georgia on nine charges including child rape and molestation involving two brothers — and more charges are likely once investigators identify additional victims captured on videos found in Gilbert's home, according to Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer.

Gilbert is in custody in Atlanta. He is expected to be returned to Pierce County this week, unless he fights extradition, Troyer said.

Pierce County prosecutors filed the nine criminal charges against Gilbert on Thursday and a warrant was issued for his arrest, according to court records. Gilbert — a pilot for United Parcel Service who also co-owns an aviation company called Lake Tapps Flyer — was arrested by FBI agents and Atlanta police at a hotel near the Atlanta airport where he was staying while attending job-related training.

So far, detectives have watched about a third of the videos and say at least 20 boys and teens, believed to be ages 12 to 17, are depicted on the tapes. Most were filmed in Gilbert's house, but some appear to have been shot in a studio, Troyer said. Investigators are trying to determine whether Gilbert sold or shared the pornographic images, Troyer said.

"The cruelty and torture and psychological stuff on top of the sex abuse is just as bad," said Troyer, who has viewed some of the videos. "We believe we've only scratched the surface."

He urged any of Gilbert's acquaintances who have sons to speak to their children and come forward if they suspect abuse; anyone with information should call the sheriff's criminal-investigations division at 253-798-7530.

"They don't need to be afraid of him anymore. He's in jail, and they're not alone," Troyer said. "We may never identify all of them [the victims] but we sure would like to."

Detectives began investigating Gilbert after two adult brothers contacted the sheriff's office last week, concerned the 47-year-old was molesting their two younger brothers, charging papers say.

The younger brothers are now 18 and 12. The 18-year-old had apparently been living with Gilbert for the past several months and told investigators Gilbert had been abusing him since March 2001, charging papers say.

The 18-year-old told detectives he first met Gilbert when he was 12, shortly after his father died. He often went to Gilbert's home and accompanied him on trips to Hong Kong, Thailand and Europe, charging papers say. Gilbert "regularly and frequently" spanked the youth — leaving welts, cuts and bruises on his body — and engaged in sex acts, often videotaping the abuse, according to court documents. Gilbert allegedly paid the 18-year-old for the spankings.

Charging documents say the 18-year-old said Gilbert "had been showing some interest in his 12-year-old brother," and he told Gilbert to stay away from the younger boy. But the 18-year-old's older brothers unwittingly brought the 12-year-old to Gilbert's house Oct. 29. The 18-year-old gave detectives a video showing Gilbert abusing both him and the 12-year-old, the papers say.

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Detectives executed a search warrant at Gilbert's house on Tapps Island, seizing videotapes, CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, ropes, paddles, sex toys, blindfolds, spanking devices, bondage implements, computers and two handguns, charging papers say.

"The kids are getting hit, they're screaming and obviously in pain," Troyer said of the graphic and disturbing images captured on tape.

Troyer said police think Gilbert used his $1 million luxury helicopter to give rides to some of the boys. Afterward, Gilbert would take them to his house, get them intoxicated and abuse them while a video recorder rolled.

In other instances, Gilbert apparently hired boys to perform yard work or cleaning. At least one room in his house was decorated for children — with Mario Brothers wallpaper, Troyer said.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, Gilbert is a licensed transport pilot with commercial privileges allowing him to fly single-engine seaplanes and helicopters; his license as a flight instructor appears to have expired in July. Gilbert is the registered owner of a Cessna A185E, FAA records show.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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