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Actor focus of child-porn manhunt pleads guilty

NEWARK, N.J. — A small-time New Jersey actor admitted in federal court Tuesday to producing child pornography images of himself having sex with boys as young as 6 years old in Thailand.

Wayne Nelson Corliss, 59, pleaded guilty to five counts, including production and possession of child pornography and traveling to foreign countries to engage in illicit sexual activities.

“This is undoubtedly among the most depraved conduct we’ve seen, with the extent of the victimization,” said Michael Drewniak, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark.

Corliss, a part-time actor, has been described by friends and colleagues as an educated, witty man whose stage name was Casey Wayne. The white-haired, bespectacled man made extra money by dressing up as Santa Claus and painting faces at children’s parties, colleagues said.

He was arrested in May after Interpol made a rare public plea for help identifying a man seen in raw child porn images seized in Norway. Once the request was made, leads received in the first 24 hours helped authorities find Corliss in his apartment in Union City, N.J.

In his plea Tuesday, Corliss admitted corresponding by e-mail with John Wrenshall, a Canadian citizen living in Thailand who set up a system in which Corliss and other men could pay Wrenshall up to $200 for access to boys as young as 4 years old.

Corliss also admitted to staying at Wrenshall’s home with Mitchell Jackson and Burgess Lee Burgess, two other Americans living in Alabama. During stays in 2000, 2001 and 2002, they filmed themselves having sex with the boys. Corliss admitted performing oral sex on two boys, ages 6 and 9, during the visits.

Burgess and Jackson have been indicted and are awaiting trial in Alabama. Authorities are continuing to investigate Wrenshall, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The child pornography production charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years. The three counts of traveling abroad for illicit sexual activities each carry a 15-year maximum sentence, and possession of child pornography has a 10-year maximum sentence.

Each count also includes a fine up to $250,000.

Chester Keller, a public defender representing Corliss, did not respond to a telephone message left at his office Tuesday.

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