Law Enforcement And Community Partners Unite To Combat Crimes Against Children
U.S. Attorney Announces “Be Here for Kids” Initiative
Tampa, FL - U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III and representatives of several federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies are continuing the observance of National Missing Children's Day (May 25th) by convening in Tampa today to announce an expanded national child safety campaign. Originally created in 2007 by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) as a campaign among federal, state, and local agencies to prevent, enforce, and prosecute crimes of exploitation against children, “Take 25” urged parents to take 25 minutes to talk to their children about Internet safety, prevention, and abduction. Beginning May 21, 2015, NCMEC’s expanded initiative, "Be Here for Kids,” encourages the public to get involved in the mission to find and protect children.
“Child predators are using more cunning and persuasive techniques and technologies to lure and exploit innocent children,” said U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III. “As a community, we must educate ourselves and others to raise awareness on how to best protect our children against these threats.”
The Department of Justice is committed to the safety and well-being of our children and has placed a high priority on protecting and combating the sexual exploitation of minors. In 2006, Project Safe Childhood was launched by the Department of Justice as a unified and comprehensive strategy to combat child exploitation by combining law enforcement efforts, community action, and public awareness. It marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, and to identify and rescue victims. The goal of Project Safe Childhood is to reduce the sexual exploitation of children.
From October 1, 2013, through April 30, 2015, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida, with the close assistance of numerous federal, state, and local agencies, brought 204 Project Safe Childhood cases against 209 individuals. The charges in those cases vary by defendant, but they include conspiring to travel in interstate commerce to engage in illicit sexual conduct, production of child pornography, distribution and receipt of child pornography, and possession of child pornography. In addition, the MDFL has prosecuted numerous cases involving human trafficking, where individuals, including minors, were forced to commit commercial sex acts. These cases were brought by each of the five division offices of the Middle District of Florida.
Children of all ages are victimized through child pornography, from as young as infants and toddlers, to adolescents. About half of the victims are younger than 12 years old. NCMEC reports that 24 percent of identified victims were pubescent, and 76 percent were prepubescent. To learn more about the Be Here for Kids Campaign, visit www.BeHereForKids.org.
Law enforcement agencies participating in today’s event included representatives from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Tampa Police Department, and the Clearwater Police Department (Clearwater/Tampa Bay Area Task Force Against Human Trafficking).
Significant MDFL Cases
October 2013 through April 2015
United States vs. Matthew William McLean. On March 23, 2014, a 14-year-old juvenile was reported missing to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Law enforcement investigators learned that the juvenile had been involved in online communications (e.g. Kik messenger, Skype) with the defendant, a 25-year-old registered sex offender from Minneapolis, Minnesota. A few days earlier, McLean had purchased a Greyhound bus ticket from Minneapolis to Tampa, and on March 23rd, he purchased two bus tickets from Tampa to Brownsville, Texas, with a stop in Tallahassee. Law enforcement responded to the bus station, recovered the minor, and arrested McLean. During the trip to Tallahassee, McLean engaged in sex acts with the minor. He was sentenced to 31 years and 6 months in prison in March 2015.
United States vs. Benjamin Cuadrado. Between July 26, 2012, and March 25, 2014, Cuadrado produced, transported, received, and possessed child pornography. He used his cellular phone to produce at least 70 videos of him sexually assaulting an infant and a toddler in his care. He transported the child pornography over the Internet using his email account and an Internet messaging program. A forensic review of Cuadrado’s cellular phone revealed 250 videos and more than 4,000 images of child pornography, including files depicting pre-pubescent children and sadomasochistic conduct. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison in March 2015.
United States vs. Melvin Barber Bridgers, III. From at least December 2012, through his arrest on May 1, 2014, Bridgers used multiple Facebook accounts to pose as a young teenage girl and befriend other girls between the ages of 10 and 16 years old. After befriending the minors, he engaged in online chats with them and used manipulation, coercion, threats, and extortion to compel the minors to send him sexually graphic photographs through Facebook. Bridgers then threatened the minor victims with exposing the sexually graphic photos to their parents, or to other Internet users, in order to extort more sexually graphic photographs and videos from them. On May 1, 2014, law enforcement executed a federal search warrant at Bridgers’s residence and obtained computer media containing numerous chat logs with the minor victims, as well as over 28,000 images and videos containing child pornography. Law enforcement agents estimate that over a two-year period, Bridgers attempted to make contact with and sexually extort, or “sextort,” thousands of young girls on Facebook. To date, approximately 129 of Bridgers’s victims have been positively identified, making this one of the largest online child “sextortion” cases prosecuted in the United States. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison in April 2015.
United States vs. Michael C. Vella. A 16-year-old female reported to law enforcement that Vella had been forcing her to have sex with him since the middle of 2012. She also disclosed that Vella had, on at least one occasion, used his laptop computer to record their encounter. The video was recorded in a hotel room when he transported the victim to the Orlando area. At the time the arrest warrant was issued, Vella was deployed to Afghanistan as a Department of Defense contractor. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison in November 2014.
United States vs. Matthew C. Graziotti. Graziotti distributed 141 images and 6 videos depicting the sexual abuse and exploitation of children to an undercover FBI agent. During the execution of a search warrant, agents located thousands of child pornography images on Graziotti’s computer involving children under the age of 12. One computer folder, named “personally known,” contained sexually explicit photographs and videos of 29 children that Graziotti had sexually abused when they were under the age of 12. Graziotti stored the sexually explicit images that he produced in subfolders bearing each child’s name. He produced these images from 2010 through 2014, during which he taught elementary school in South Daytona and was the director of the school’s summer day camp program. He also coached youth sports. He was sentenced to 210 years in prison on January 26, 2015.
United States vs. Xavier Francisco Villanueva, et al. Between January 17, 2013 and January 25, 2013, Orange County gang members agreed to recruit and entice a 14-year-old girl to engage in commercial sex acts. The defendants were part of the “Nine Trey Billy Bad Ass” gang, which is affiliated with the “Bloods” street gang. Over a period of nine days, they used drugs, intimidation, and physical restraint to cause the minor to engage in prostitution with customers they solicited through the Internet. On January 25, 2013, the minor escaped from the house where she was being held captive. Xavier Francisco Villanueva a/k/a “X,” (25, Orlando) was sentenced to 19 years and 7 months in prison; Jose Carmona, a/k/a “Hood,” (21, Orlando) was sentenced to a term of 12 years and 6 months; Ashley Nicole Barnett, a/k/a “Snow,” (25, Orlando) was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment; and Keith E. Romby, II, a/k/a “PJ,” (23, Orlando) was sentenced to 8 years and 4 months in prison.
United States vs. Michael Glenn Glascock. From October 11, 2012, through October 11, 2013, Glascock used a three-year-old victim to produce visual depictions of the child engaging in sexually explicit conduct. In the fall of 2013, an undercover agent with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office responded to an online advertisement that Glascock had posted on Craigslist. The agent communicated with Glascock over the Internet and by cell phone. During these conversations, Glascock described his sexual abuse of the minor victim and expressed an interest in meeting the agent and the agent’s fictitious minor daughter. Glascock further expressed a desire to meet and engage in illegal sexual activity with the fictitious child, and he offered to allow the agent to engage in sexual activity with the minor victim. After finalizing plans to meet, agents went to Glascock’s home, where they met him and located the minor victim. The victim was taken to a medical facility and examined for sexual assault. Subsequent laboratory tests revealed the presence of Glascock’s semen on the child’s body, as well as in the child’s diaper. Glascock admitted to producing pornographic images of the minor victim, to sexually abusing the minor as depicted in some of the images, and to distributing and receiving images of child pornography over the Internet. Agents executed a search warrant at Glascock’s home and recovered his cell phones, SD cards, and the digital camera that he had used to produce some of the explicit images involving the minor victim. A forensic examination of these devices revealed that there were 24 images depicting explicit sexual conduct involving the minor victim on one of the SD cards. He was sentenced to life in prison on February 6, 2015.
United States vs. Jonathan Tyler Prive. In September and October 2013, an undercover agent with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation into an individual identified as Michael Glenn Glascock. The undercover investigation revealed that Glascock was sexually abusing a three-year-old minor victim, producing child pornography images of the minor victim, and distributing some of these images to others. Law enforcement agents eventually arrested Glascock at his residence in Brevard County, located the minor victim, and executed a search warrant at Glascock’s residence. A forensic examination of Glascock’s electronic devices and a review of his email accounts revealed emails between Prive and Glascock. In these emails, the two discussed a prior incident where Prive had sexually abused the minor victim at Glascock’s home, while Glascock was present. After discovering these emails, the undercover agent used Glascock’s email account to initiate online communications with Prive. He later communicated with the undercover agent via the Internet and arranged to meet the agent (posing as Glascock) for the purpose of engaging in illegal sexual activity with the minor victim for a second time. Prive traveled to the street where this residence was located and was arrested. In his possession was a packet of lubricant that he had brought for his planned meeting with the minor victim. He was sentenced to 30 years and 5 months in prison in April 2015.
United States vs. Christopher Richard Cloonan. In March 2014, an undercover officer (UC) in Washington, D.C. posted an advertisement on an online website frequented by individuals who have a sexual interest in children. Cloonan responded to the ad and expressed interest and experience in sexual activity with a child. Later, Cloonan sent the UC an email indicating that he was alone with an infant child. Attached to the email were two images that Cloonan had produced depicting an infant engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Cloonan later sent the UC an email containing two additional images that depicted the same infant. In several subsequent emails, Cloonan discussed his fantasies about sex with children. A search warrant was later executed at Cloonan’s residence, where a forensic analysis of his phone revealed that it contained at least 85 images of child pornography, most depicting infants and toddlers. Two of the images of the infant that were taken by Cloonan and sent to the UC were also present on the smart phone. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on February 27, 2015.
United States vs. Lucas Michael Chansler. From 2007 through January 2010, Chansler transmitted threatening communications to hundreds of girls over the Internet. He transmitted these threats with the intent to extort photographs and webcam videos showing the victims exposing themselves and engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Chansler pretended to be a friend, acquaintance, or admirer of the victims on various social networking websites. After gaining some measure of trust from a particular child, Chansler would invite her to engage in a live video chat and later would ask her to expose herself. Unbeknownst to the child, he was recording the video session. Chansler often enticed his victims to expose themselves by showing a streaming video of a minor male exposing himself or engaging in masturbation. If a victim did expose herself, he recorded it and then later sent it to her over the Internet. Chansler would then demand additional and more graphic images or webcam videos. He would inform the child that if she did not comply, he would post the images and videos online, or send them to her family and friends. He was sentenced to 105 years in prison in November 2014.
United States vs. Charles Hudson. On January 6, 2014, an officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to a residence in response to a call regarding allegations of sexual battery on a minor child. Subsequently, detectives from the JSO Sex Crimes Unit interviewed the child, who indicated that she had been sexually abused by Hudson. Two days later, detectives obtained a search warrant for Hudson’s residence. During the execution of the warrant, officers discovered numerous items of digital media, including several computers, cameras, SD cards, CDs, and DVDs. In the attic, officers recovered a backpack containing cameras, sex devices and restraints, and several pill bottles bearing Hudson’s name. Five SD cards were found inside one of the pill bottles. Subsequent forensic analyses of the five SD cards revealed approximately 90 video and image files depicting sexually explicit conduct involving Hudson. At least two of these videos, which had been produced by Hudson, depicted him and a minor child engaged in sexually explicit conduct. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison in March 2015.
United States vs. William Graydon Roberts. Roberts began communicating with a 9-year-old girl via Skype, requesting that she send sexually explicit photos to his private email account. He also sent the minor text messages instructing her on how to upload videos to YouTube. Subsequent search warrants of Internet Service Providers revealed images of the minor by Roberts on his electronic devices. Following his arrest, he pleaded guilty to receiving pornographic images of the minor, at his request. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison in March 2015.
United States vs. David Edward Judd. An FBI task force investigation into the sharing of child pornography over the Internet revealed a Fort Myers residence registered to Judd. Further investigation revealed that Judd had been downloading child pornography for years, with a preference for teenage girls. Seized computer items at the residence contained at least 8,831 images of child pornography on Judd’s computer hard drive. He subsequently pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 72 months in prison in April 2015.