Former CNMI Firefighter Sentenced to 30 Years for Sexual Exploitation of a Child
Saipan, CNMI – ALICIA A.G. LIMTIACO, United States Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, announced that U.S. District Court Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona sentenced Richard Sullivan Benavente, age 45, today, to the statutory maximum of 360 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for sexual exploitation of a child. The Court also ordered him to pay restitution to the two minor victims.
In July 2013, the CNMI Department of Public Safety received a video file from an anonymous source depicting Benavente and a minor female engaging in sexually explicit conduct. The minor was later identified. The same video file was found on Defendant’s cell phone pursuant to a search warrant. Benavente was arrested on a complaint on August 14, 2013. On August 22, 2013, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Benavente charging him with two counts of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of attempted sexual exploitation of a child in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a). He pleaded guilty to count one of the indictment on February 10, 2014, pursuant to a plea agreement requiring him to cooperate with the United States and provide truthful information about his criminal conduct, as well as the conduct of others. However, on October 9, 2015, the Court ruled that Benavente breached his plea agreement by committing perjury at the trial of another defendant at which Benavente testified, when he claimed to own a cell phone the prosecution argued was used by that other defendant to contact minors for purposes of prostitution.
Following the sentencing, United States Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, Alicia A.G. Limtiaco, stated, “Consistent with the Department of Justice’s efforts to combat child sexual exploitation, the United States Attorney’s Office, together with its federal and local law enforcement partners, will vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals who prey on children, and strive to rid our islands of this unconscionable crime. We encourage and urge members of our community to report to authorities any and all forms of abuse, exploitation and violence; and remind ourselves, that it is all of our responsibility to protect others, especially the most vulnerable such as our children and minors, from those who perpetrate these heinous crimes.”
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. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rami S. Badawy, Ross K. Naughton, and Garth R. Backe.