BANGOR, Maine: A former Fort Hood, Texas soldier was found guilty today of one count of enticement of a child, two counts of travelling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and two counts of transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. The verdict came after a two-day jury trial in the U.S. District Court in Bangor with Judge Lance E. Walker presiding.
According to evidence presented during the trial, between February and December 2021, Christopher Meza, 22, interacted with a 13-year-old from Maine on a popular online gaming platform. The conversations included descriptions of sex as well as Meza’s acknowledgement of the victim’s age. Meza twice traveled from Texas to Maine to meet with the then 14-year-old victim, and on both occasions was successful in leaving the state with the victim.
Of the five counts for which Meza was found guilty, three counts carry a minimum of ten years and a maximum of life in prison while the remaining two counts have maximum penalties of 30 years. A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) was the lead law enforcement agency. Additional investigative resources were provided by U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division and multiple police departments in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Texas.
Reports of child sexual exploitation are increasing: In 2022, The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) CyberTipline received 32 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation. That included more than 80,000 reports of online enticement of children for sexual acts, an increase of 82% from 2021 to 2022, and more than 31 million reports of child sexual abuse materials. Victimization can take place across every platform, including social media, messaging apps, gaming platforms, etc. To make a CyberTipline Report, visit https://report.cybertip.org/. If you are in Maine and you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted or abused, you can get help by calling the free, private 24-hour statewide sexual assault helpline at 1-800-871-7741.
Project Safe Childhood: This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.justice.gov/psc.
Chris Ruge, Assistant United States Attorney (207-945-0373)