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Sex.com thief appears in court

Details emerge of dramatic arrest

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Following his dramatic arrest late last week Sex.com thief Stephen Cohen has appeared before a judge in San Diego and been ordered to face the $65m judgement lodged against him nearly five years ago.

Cohen confirmed that he was the man named in an arrest warrant from May 2001. Dishevelled and dressed in a white jail-issue jumpsuit he asked for a court-appointed lawyer and said he hoped to resolve the issue soon, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

The 57-year-old Cohen, reputed to have a genius level IQ, also claimed: "I don't have a lot of financial wherewithal." Federal Judge Leo S. Papas was not persuaded. "I think you'll find some disagreement on that from some quarters," he said, refusing bail.

Cohen will now be sent north to San Jose where he will face Judge James Ware - the same judge that presided over the Sex.com court case in 1998.

Cohen's theft of the world's most valuable domain in 1995 netted him at least $100m but when its original owner, Gary Kremen, finally won the case, Cohen fled to Mexico and refused to pay the $65m judgement against him.

Despite having chased him all over the world for more than seven years, Gary Kremen told us that he drew no great pleasure from his nemesis' incarceration. "I don't wish anyone having to be tossed in jail. Even Stephen Cohen. If the guy would just do what the court says he has to do, he would be out of jail. Why doesn't he just do it?"

Meanwhile, more details of Cohen's arrest have emerged. It turns out the arrest of his daughter from his second marriage, 21-year-old Jhuliana, in June was the turning point.

Jhuliana Cohen was arrested for attempting to smuggle marijuana across the US border at San Ysidro. A spokeswoman for the US Department for Homeland Security told us she was "using a special dedicated lane for trusted travellers and had special privileges".

Following her arrest, immigration agents learnt of Stephen Cohen's outstanding arrest warrant and notified the Mexican authorities, who began looking for him. Cohen, it was later discovered, was living in a penthouse apartment in the expensive Chapultepec district of border-town Tijuana. However it was when Cohen personally applied for a residency permit with the Mexican immigration authorities that he was identified and arrested.

Cohen's residency had been revoked following divorce from his third wife, Rosa Montano, and he took it upon himself to refresh his status rather than pay a lawyer. Mexican immigration officers handed Cohen over to their US counterparts at the US consultate and from there he was transported to San Ysidro and handed over to US marshals. He currently resides in jail in San Diego until his transportation north.

His daughter meanwhile is due in the same court in San Diego on Monday to face the smuggling charges. Her defence lawyers say she had simply made a mistake when she was persuaded to transport the drugs over the border by a man she met in a bar.

Although Kremen had nothing to do with Cohen and Jhuliana's arrests, he had nonetheless been putting pressure on the family. Earlier this month, Kremen got a court order that allowed him to open Cohen's mail and uncover some of his assets. Cohen had put some of his businesses into his daughter's name, including a strip club in downtown Tijuana. Kremen also hired law firm Osuna & Rivero, specialists in enforcement of US judgments in Mexico, to bring Cohen to book.

Now caught in the US legal system and with none of his previous lawyers apparently around to represent him, Cohen's luck appears to have finally run out. It will take far more than his legendary silver tongue this time to get past a determined Judge Ware and Gary Kremen.

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San Diego Union-Tribune story

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