Former Harris County Deputy Ordered into Custody on Federal Child Pornography Charges
HOUSTON – The 30-year-old former law enforcement official taken into federal custody last week has been ordered detained on allegations of production and possession of child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Andrew Craig Sustaita, who resided in Spring, was previously a Harris County deputy sheriff, but is no longer employed there.
A federal grand jury indicted Sustaita Feb. 1, 2017, on charges of possession and production of child pornography. He was taken into federal custody Thursday, Feb. 9. Today, he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances H. Stacy who found he was a danger to the community and a risk of flight and ordered him to remain in custody pending further criminal proceedings. In making that determination. Judge Stacy noted the characteristics of the defendant, the substantial prison sentence he potentially faces as well as the nature and strength of the evidence. She found no condition or set of conditions that would assure the safety of the community and his continued appearances in court. She also noted that the crimes he is charged with committing would constitute a crime of violence.
During the hearing, the government contended that Sustaita has access to weapons, is dangerous and believes he is above the law. The court heard that Sustaita allegedly used his position of trust to abuse at least two children. The court heard arguments that he is facing at least 15 years in prison and, with his law enforcement training, he could be in a position to avoid capture and possible flee.
The court considered arguments from the prosecution that contended Sustaita posted images to a known child pornography website that are believed to be child erotica and that he had commented on other images on that same site. According to the information presented in court today, the investigation into the user name allegedly belonging to Sustaita found items on the Internet in various places including a pay-to-play bestiality website. Further information presented to the court included discussions of the amount and types of images authorities have discovered on two devices believed attributable to Sustaita. The court heard that one video includes a known young girl showering. Other images contain adult male genitalia allegedly of the defendant placed on or near another known young female’s head while she appears to be sleeping and others that include allegedly the same male attempting to expose that child’s genitalia.
If convicted of the sexual exploitation of a child charge (aka production of child pornography), Sustaita faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 and up to 30 years in federal prison. He also faces an additional 10-year-maximum sentence upon conviction of possessing child pornography. The charges are also punishable by a $250,000 maximum possible fine. Upon completion of any prison term imposed, Sustaita could also face up to life on supervised release during which the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect the children and prohibit the use of the Internet. Sustaita would also be required to register as a sex offender upon conviction.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Zack is prosecuting the case, which was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.