News and Press Releases

Wesley Chapel Man Sentenced To Ten Years For Using A Phone And Computer To Arrange For Sex With Child

May 4, 2012

Tampa, FL - U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neillannounces that U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazarra today sentenced John Joseph Steele (64, Wesley Chapel) to 10 years in federal prison for using a computer and cell phone to arrange for sex with a thirteen-year-old child.

According to testimony presented at trial, on June 18, 2011, Steele used his computer and cell phone to arrange a meeting for sex with a thirteen-year-old child. Unbeknownst to Steele, he was communicating with an undercover officer from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. After a brief conversation with the undercover officer, Steele drove from Wesley Chapel to a location approximately 80 miles away, to meet and have sex with the "child." After his arrival at the location, Steele was arrested and found in possession of condoms and lubricant. During phone conversations with the undercover detective, Steele had discussed the possibility of impregnating the child. Steele was convicted after a jury trial on February 15, 2012.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, as part of that office’s “Operation Summer Nights” - an operation to identify and apprehend child sexual predators. It was 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, 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 For more information about internet safety education, please visit and click on the tab "resources."









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