DENVER – A Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher facing federal charges of traveling to Colorado to have sex with children has apparently killed himself in prison, officials said Monday.
Yaron Segal, 30, an Israeli citizen, died Friday, said John Sell, executive assistant with the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood.
Guards found Segal alone, hanging from a homemade noose in his cell at the detention center, where defendants are held while awaiting trial, Sell said. The federal jail is a separate facility next to a minimum-security prison where former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich began serving his 14-year corruption sentence last month.
Segal’s death is being investigated by the FBI. He was being held without bail on two charges of traveling to engage in sex with minors, and a charge of using the mail to persuade, induce, entice and coerce a minor to have sex.
Homeland Security Investigations agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested Segal in Grand Junction shortly after he arrived there by plane March 28.
Authorities said Segal exchanged sexually explicit emails with an undercover agent and expressed a desire to have sex with two young children, one younger than 16 and another younger than 12.
Segal worked as a postdoctoral assistant in MIT’s Photovoltaics Research Laboratory, which develops solar cells, according to a letter sent to U.S. District Court.
Segal was working on developing manufacturing equipment to produce efficient and cost-effective solar cells and intended to produce the first prototype cells this month, according to a letter signed by MIT’s Tonio Buonassisi, the lab’s principal investigator.
Buonassisi and other MIT officials did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Buonassisi’s letter described Segal as well-regarded and said Segal was a leader within the research group who closely mentored five graduate students. Segal had also served as the lead in writing six research proposals that raised more than $1.8 million in research funding for the laboratory.
A man believed to be Segal started communicating with the undercover agent in February in chat rooms that referenced child rape, torture, brutality and children as sex slaves, according to an arrest affidavit.
Authorities said the man believed to be Segal sent sexually explicit photographs and video of himself via email, spoke to the undercover agent by phone and said he had purchased sex toys for the children.
According to an arrest affidavit, ICE Department of Homeland Security investigators traced an email handle, “ruthlessmale,” to New Haven, Conn., then to Cambridge, and then to Segal.
During a hearing April 3, Segal waived a preliminary hearing in which authorities present evidence supporting the charges. A U.S. magistrate judge ordered Segal held without bail.