Naval Officer Indicted on Transportation and Enticement of a Minor, Child Pornography Charges
PROVIDENCE – A retired U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander most recently stationed at the Naval War College in Newport, RI, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Providence, RI, today on charges he allegedly transported and enticed a minor to engage in illicit sexual conduct, and that he distributed, received, and possessed child pornography all while actively serving and following his retirement from active service with the U.S. Navy.
Ronald W. Zenga, 49, of Middletown, RI, who retired from the U.S. Navy in October 2017, was indicted today on two counts of enticement or coercion of a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity and one count each of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in illicit sexual activity, interstate travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, distribution of child pornography, receipt of child pornography, and possession of child pornography, announced United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman, Homeland Security Investigations Acting Special Agent in Charge Jason Molina, and Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police Colonel James M. Manni.
It is alleged that Zenga repeatedly coerced a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity, and transported a minor across state lines from Rhode Island to Texas, Florida and Cuba with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.
According to court documents and information provided to the Court, in September 2018, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents in Providence received information from the Bedfordshire Police Department (BPD) in the United Kingdom that an individual, later identified by HSI as Zenga, was allegedly communicating with a BPD agent through a Russian file sharing website. According to the BPD, the communications allegedly graphically described ongoing sexual encounters with a young minor child. It is alleged that Zenga described several years of sexual encounters with a child, dating back to the child’s prepubescent years.
On October 17, 2018, HSI agents and members of the Rhode Island State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force executed a federal court authorized search of Zenga’s Middletown residence. Forensic previews of Zenga’s electronic devices resulted in the discovery of emails and files of child pornography allegedly shared, received and possessed by Zenga.
Following the search of his residence, Zenga was arrested and detained in federal custody on a criminal complaint charging him with access with the intent to view child pornography, and receipt and possession of child pornography.
The ongoing investigation resulted in the return today of a seven-count indictment.
A criminal complaint and an indictment are merely an accusations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Each count of enticement or coercion of a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in illicit sexual activity are punishable by statutory penalties of 10 years to life in federal prison followed by 5 years to lifetime supervised release. Interstate travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct is punishable by statutory penalties of up to 30 years in prison followed by up to lifetime supervised release. Distribution of child pornography and receipt of child pornography are punishable by statutory penalties of 5-20 years imprisonment followed by up to lifetime supervised release. Possession of child pornography is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and 3 years supervised release.
An arraignment date has not yet been scheduled.
The matter is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. McAdams.