Florida Man Who Sexually Exploited Escondido Middle Schoolers Sentenced to 27 Years in Prison
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charlotte Kaiser (619) 546-7282 and David Leshner (619) 546-7921
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – January 7, 2015
SAN DIEGO – Tony McLeod of Tampa, Florida, was sentenced in federal court today to 324 months in custody and a lifetime of supervised release for multiple sexual crimes against two Escondido children.
Following an eight-day trial and less than two hours of deliberation, McLeod was convicted by a federal jury in June of 2015 of seven counts of sexual exploitation of a child, one count of attempted sexual exploitation of a child, one count of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, and one count of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity as to a 14-year-old victim, and one count of attempted sexual exploitation of a child as to a 15-year-old victim. McLeod has been in custody since his arrest in Tampa, Florida in June 2013.
According to evidence presented to the jury, in spring 2013, McLeod struck up a friendship with the minor victims through on-line gaming. These friendships spilled over into phone calls, texts, and video chats between McLeod and the minors in which they discussed their personal lives and McLeod learned they were in middle school. Around May of 2013, McLeod’s relationships with these minors turned sexual in nature, which involved the exchange of sexually explicit photographs and videos. After one of the minor’s family members discovered the illicit relationship, McLeod traveled from his home in Tampa, Florida to Los Angeles, California, picked up that minor from his middle school in Escondido, and then transported that minor (under an alias) on a flight from California to Florida. On arrival of the flight, McLeod was arrested and taken into custody.
During the sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino, the victims and their parents testified about the impact of McLeod’s actions. One of the minors, who was 14 years old when he travelled on the plane with McLeod, told Judge Sammartino, “I lost my childhood and lost my innocence.” The other victim, who had just turned 15 years old at the time of the offense, told the judge that McLeod’s actions and the aftermath “almost completely destroyed my family.” The mother of the 14-year-old victim testified that “we as a family have lost our sense of security.”
In handing down the sentence, Judge Sammartino described McLeod’s conduct as “horrendous” and imposed a lifetime of supervised release. As part of the conditions of release, McLeod will be subject to search at any time by any law enforcement or probation officer with reasonable suspicion concerning a violation, he cannot use or possess any electronic devices that would allow him to communicate with others, and he cannot be in the presence of a child under age 18 unless he receives prior approval from his probation officer and only in the presence of a supervising adult who knows of his convictions. A restitution hearing is scheduled for February 26.
“McLeod was a master manipulator who ingrained himself in these kids’ lives despite being thousands of miles away. He then exploited them for his own illicit sexual desire,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “We will work tirelessly to bring to justice those who prey on our children and rob them of their innocence.”
“Protecting our children from sexual predators is a priority to the FBI,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum. “The FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect our nation’s children from those who would seek to exploit their innocence.”
McLeod’s arrest and prosecution was the result of coordination between multiple federal and state agencies in both San Diego, California and Tampa, Florida.
DEFENDANT Case Number: 13CR2297-JLS
Tony Lee McLeod Age: 38 Tampa, Florida
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Title 18, United States Code, Section 2221(a) and (e) – Sexual Exploitation of a Child (Counts 2-9)
Title 18, United States Code, Section 2251(a) and (e) – Attempted Sexual Exploitation of a Child (Count 13)
Title 18, United States Code, Section 2423(b) – Travel with Intent to Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct (Count 10)
Title 18, United States Code, Section 2423(a) – Transportation of a Minor with the Purpose of Engaging in Criminal Sexual Activity (Count 11)
LEAD INVESTIGATIVE AGENCY
San Diego FBI
Escondido Police Department
Tampa Police Department
San Diego Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory
San Diego District Attorney’s Office
San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
San Diego Sheriff’s Department
United States Marshal’s Service Task Force (Tampa)
Tampa International Airport Police
Florida State’s Attorney’s Office
U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida