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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Air Force Staff Sergeant Sentenced To 11 Years For Child Enticement

Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew yesterday sentenced Steven Richard Romel (32, Kissimmee) to 11 years in federal prison for enticement of a child for sex. The Court also ordered Romel to forfeit a phone and an iPad, that he had used to commit the offense. Romel pleaded guilty on July 8, 2014.     

According to court documents, between November 21, 2013, and January 18, 2014, a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in Tampa conducted an online investigation into adults using computers to communicate with, and arrange for sex with, minors. Specifically, the agent posed as the 15-year-old daughter of a deployed military soldier. On November 21, 2013, the “child” posted an online personal advertisement to which Romel responded. During subsequent conversations, Romel discussed meeting the “child” and inquired when she could sneak away to meet with him. The “child” repeatedly mentioned that she was 15 years old.

Romel, who was stationed at Barksdale Air Force base in Shreveport, Louisiana at the time, offered to buy the “child” a roundtrip ticket from Tampa so that she could meet with him. On several occasions, he also requested that photos be sent to him online. When the “child” mentioned that she would be off from school on January 20, 2014, Romel purchased a plane ticket for the “child” to visit him in Shreveport.

 On January 18, 2014, the agent flew from Tampa to Shreveport, on the same flight as the supposed “child.” Romel was at the airport waiting and was arrested. A search of Romel’s residence later showed that he had purchased numerous items discussed with the “child” during their chats, including the “Plan B” pill.

This case was investigated by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Amanda C. Kaiser.

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 (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.

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Updated January 26, 2015