Wesley Chapel Man Convicted of Arranging for Sex with Minor in Undercover Sex Sting Operation
Tampa, FL - U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces that a federal jury yesterday found John Joseph Steele (64, Wesley Chapel) guilty of using a facility of interstate commerce to persuade, induce, entice and coerce a child to engage in sexual. Steele faces a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years, up to a maximum penalty of life in federal prison. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 4, 2012 at 9:00 a.m.
Steele was indicted on August 24, 2011.
According to testimony presented at trial, Steele used his computer and cell phone to arrange a meeting to have sex with a thirteen-year-old girl during an undercover operation by the Lake County Sheriff's Office in June 2011. Specifically, on June 18, 2011, he used his computer and cell phone to arrange a meeting for sex with a thirteen-year-old through communications with who Steele believed was the child's guardian, but who was actually an undercover officer engaged in an operation to identify and apprehend child sexual predators. After a brief conversation, Steele drove from Wesley Chapel to a location approximately 80 miles away, to meet and have sex with the "child" and was arrested.
This case was investigated by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Amanda C. Kaiser and Assistant United States Attorney Joseph Swanson.
It is another case brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov and click on the tab “other resources.”