Mercer County Admits Producing Child Pornography
PITTSBURGH, Pa. - A resident of Mercer County, Pa., pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of production of material depicting the sexual exploitation of a minor, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.
Armando Cruz, 44, pleaded guilty on July 26, to two counts before United States District Judge Arthur J. Schwab.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that on or about March 6, 2011, and June 12, 2011, in Mercer, Pa., Cruz used, persuaded, and coerced minors to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct. Information presented to the court established that Cruz engaged in sexual conduct and/or had sexual contact with four minor children, three of whom had not attained the age of 12, for the purpose of producing video and still images of the sexual exploitation, which he then distributed to other men, to include one in Denver, Colo. and one in San Diego, Calif. The plea agreement entered with the government requires that Cruz serve a 35-year term of imprisonment.
Judge Schwab scheduled sentencing for Dec. 5, 2012, at 9:30 a.m. The law provides for a total sentence of 60 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, or both. Cruz remains detained pending the sentencing hearing. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant United States Attorney Carolyn J. Bloch is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pennsylvania State Police conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Cruz.
This case was 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 www.justice.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."