The owner of a real estate business in Ocean Beach was sentenced Monday to 10 years in federal prison for using a cell phone to arrange to have sex with a 13-year-old girl he paid on several occasions.
Michael Lustig, 71, arrested in University City on Oct. 1, 2013, pleaded guilty to using cell phones in coded messages that involved interstate travel in aid of racketeering enterprises.
Although Assistant U.S. Attorney Alessandra Serano asked for a 108-month term, U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez imposed 120 months, as the probation department recommended a 10-year sentence. Lustig will receive credit for serving 17 months in prison.
Lustig is the owner of Real Estate License Services, which he founded in Ocean Beach in 1978. His attorney, Timothy Scott, said the business thrived for 30 years.
Scott asked for a 3-year term, saying Lustig has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and has skin cancer, according to court documents.
In a statement Monday, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said that “Michael Lustig victimized the most vulnerable population in our community—children—and today, he was brought to justice. We will do everything in our power to protect children from predators.”
“The FBI remains dedicated to protecting our children from sexual predators,” said Eric Birnbaum, FBI special agent in charge.
Lustig entered a rare “conditional guilty plea” to the charges on July 31, in which his appeal of a judge’s ruling that allowed search of his cell phones will remain active. If Lustig wins the appeal, he can withdraw his guilty pleas and face a trial without the cell phone evidence.
Lustig was arrested on the current charges following a traffic stop on Governor Drive, but his first arrest was at an Encinitas motel in 2012. His cell phones were seized.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the evidence showed he was texting coded messages to two girls, aged 11 and 13, to arrange for sexual activities for money. Court records say Lustig used the words “library” and “books” as code words for sex.
One text read, “Hey, is the bookstore open? I’m in desperate need of books rite [sic] now.” Benitez ruled that the text messages and other information found on Lustig’s cell phones could be admitted into evidence. His appeal to a higher court on the cell phone issue remains alive.
– Neal Putnam