Local man gets life for hunting girls online
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 35-year-old Corpus Christi resident has been ordered to federal prison for using social media to entice a young girl to engage in sexual activity, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Robert Velasquez pleaded guilty in January 2020.
Today, Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack ordered he serve the rest of life in prison. At the hearing, the court heard additional information including impact statements from three of his victims. Additional information was also presented about the identification of several victims between the ages eight and 15. In handing down the prison term, the court noted that given the nature of the defendant’s conduct and the damage he had done to the victims and their families, she felt she had no other sentence available to her that could properly protect the community. A restitution hearing will be held at a later date.
“Using any type of social media to target our children is deplorable,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery. “Such communication avenues can be wonderful tools to share stories and connect with people, but we must remain vigilant and cautious. This defendant abused these systems and hunted for victims who were specifically underage and local. Thankfully, he will be behind bars, but the case is a good reminder to monitor our children’s activity and to be careful about having identifiable information readily available.”
The investigation began in January 2019. Authorities ultimately reviewed more than 50,000 social media chats which led to the identification of over 10 young girls ranging from 8 to 17 years of age whom Velasquez victimized.
He had used the victims’ social media accounts to determine they were local and underage. He then targeted them with complimentary messages and long conversations in order to get the girls to meet for sex. In some instances, he photographed the children during their physical encounters.
Velasquez has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The FBI and the Corpus Christi Police Department Internet Crimes Against Children conducted the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brittany L. Jensen is prosecuting the case, which was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a nationwide initiative the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section leads PSC, which marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children and identifies and rescues victims. For more information about PSC, please visit DOJ’s PSC page. For more information about internet safety education, please visit the resources tab on that page.