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Press Release

Naval Pilot Admits to Coercing a Minor, Child Pornography Charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE – Lieutenant Commander Ronald W. Zenga, 44, of Middletown, RI, a retired U.S. Navy pilot most recently stationed at the Naval War College in Newport, RI, pleaded guilty in federal court in Providence today to charges he coerced 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.

According to court documents and information provided to the Court, in September 2018, HSI agents in Providence received information from the Bedfordshire Police Department (BPD) in the United Kingdom that an individual, later identified as Zenga, was communicating with a BPD agent through a Russian file sharing website. The communications graphically described ongoing sexual encounters with a young minor child. 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.

At sentencing on February 2, 2021, Zenga faces statutory penalties of 10 years to life in federal prison followed by 5 years to lifetime supervised release on the charge of coercion; 5-20 years imprisonment followed by up to lifetime supervised release on the charges of distribution of child pornography and receipt of child pornography; and up to 10 years imprisonment and 3 years supervised release on the charge of possession of child pornography.

Zenga’s guilty plea is announced by United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Special Agent in Charge David Magdycz, and Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police Colonel James M. Manni.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. McAdams.

The Rhode Island ICAC Task Force is comprised of members of the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit along with detectives from the Warwick Police Department, Cranston Police Department, Newport Police Department, East Providence Police Department, Pawtucket Police Department, Bristol Police Department, Portsmouth Police Department, and Homeland Security Investigations.



Jim Martin
(401) 709-5357

Updated November 19, 2020

Project Safe Childhood
Press Release Number: 20-146