ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WRIC) — An ex-state department employee stationed in the Philippines will serve 15 years in prison after sexually abusing two minors, acts he said were precipitated by a COVID-19 infection early in the pandemic.

Dean Cheves, 63, was convicted last October on two counts of child sexual abuse after he paid two girls in Manila, aged 15 and 16, about $60 to film him as he engaged in sexual acts with them.

Cheves, who lived in Virginia on and off for years and was charged in Virginia’s Eastern District Court, wrote in a sentencing letter earlier this month that he was deeply remorseful and that the offenses were out of character for him.

A potential factor that contributed to his heinous offenses, he said, was his infection with COVID-19 in December 2020.

“Mr. Cheves had become so sick that he told his wife he believed he was going to die,” the letter reads. “Looking back at those months now, Mr. Cheves says he does not recognize who he was at that time.”

They added that although it couldn’t be considered a mitigating factor, Cheves behavior during his infection was “uncharacteristic” and directly preceded his offense.

“A review of his interactions with the two complainants appear to show a person unrecognizable to Mr. Cheves,” the letter reads. “Mr. Cheves appeared to engage in uncharacteristic behavior that quickly devolved into the unlawful acts that bring him before the Court.”

Cheves called for a sentence of two years of house arrest and five years of supervised release, far below the guideline sentence calculated by the court.

Prosecutors took a much harsher view, noting that in texts to the victims, Cheves repeatedly showed that he knew their ages and was aware of the age of consent, 18, in the Philippines.

Cheves also bragged in texts to one of the victims that he had previously sexually abused a 14-year-old in Brazil, writing that he had taken her to a “sex motel” and recorded the abuse.

Prosecutors did not specify how much time they sought for Cheves, but called for a “significant sentence” and a lifetime of supervised release, noting that the mandatory minimum for Cheves’ crimes was 15 years in prison.

That was the sentence Cheves ultimately received, along with an order to pay thousands of dollars in restitution to one of his victims.