Jury Convicts Former Richmond Resident on Federal Stalking Charge
HOUSTON – In a first for this district, a 44-year-old former Richmond man has been found guilty for systematically torturing a former girlfriend by sending horrific images and threatening email messages, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez. The jury returned its verdict just a short time ago against Heriberto Latigo following five days of trial and less than two hours of deliberations.
This is the first case tried in the Southern District of Texas in which a defendant used the Internet to cause substantial emotional distress. In the last 10 years, less than 100 defendants have been convicted using this federal stalking statute.
Latigo began a romantic relationship with the victim in 2013. As it progressed, Latigo’s conduct became controlling and demanding to include forcing her to send him naked images of her. The relationship eventually devolved into physical altercations to include an alleged rape. The victim testified that she was and is afraid of Latigo.
In June 2014, she discovered she was pregnant. She testified that Latigo was so controlling and crazy during this time that she decided to end the pregnancy. Latigo found out and created a Facebook page titled “Magdelana Aborted” where he pretended to be the aborted fetus, sent the link to her and said “Your abortion video will now be posted you whore.” She was so upset that she overdosed on tranquilizers in an attempt to take her own life.
From March 2014 to April 2015, Latigo used threats and blackmail tactics to force the victim to do things against her will. Latigo had used the naked images she had previously sent during their relationship to compel her to do a variety of things, including complying with his sexual demands. If she refused, he would post the images online until she acquiesced. On many occasions, she had to contact Google to have naked pictures of her removed. Latigo also sent the images to her sister, her sister’s boss and male co-workers in an effort to control and harass her.
Latigo used his own email address to send messages to the woman in which he berated her and demanded she do things. He even created a Gmail account and Google+ page with the victim’s name and used a naked photograph of her as the profile picture.
Latigo’s actions caused the victim to move. She even changed jobs. She closed her Facebook account and got offline. However, he ultimately found her again, went to her new job and continued to harass her.
The jury also heard from another witness that placed Latigo at the victim’s daughter’s school indicating he was physically stalking her. A computer forensic expert also testified that Latigo accessed multiple Facebook accounts and the victim’s email from his own computer and attempted to cover his trail in the process.
Latigo represented himself during the trial and attempted to convince the jury that this entire case was about the victim wanting to hurt him. He claimed she created the accounts used to harass her. However, she actually broke down in tears on the stand when she learned her naked images had been sent in response to a Craigslist ad she supposedly created. No evidence was presented to the jury that demonstrated the victim ever had control of either of these accounts. In fact, Latigo’s own xpert witness testified that the email address at issue was created on one of Latigo’s computers seized by the FBI during a search of his home.
The jury ultimately did not believe Latigo’s claims and found he intentionally harassed the victim and caused her substantial emotional distress. He was convicted as charged.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt presided over the trial and has sentencing for Jan. 8, 2017. At that time, Latigo faces up to five years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine. Following a detention hearing held in June 2015, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson ordered Latigo into custody, finding his “alleged conduct to be so egregious and threatening to the victim, that detention is warranted.” She further noted he presented a danger to the victim. He will remain in custody pending his sentencing hearing.
The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sherri Zack and Steve Schammel are prosecuting the case.