FRESNO, Calif. - A longtime Fresno-area Army recruiter has been sentenced to 135 months in prison for receiving and distributing child pornography after a tip from Florida authorities led local investigators to the defendant's home where they recovered a collection of images and videos showing children as young as three being sexually abused.
Ramon Santos, Jr., 42, of Lemoore, Calif., was sentenced this morning by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill. Upon completion of his prison term, Santos will be subject to a 10-year term of supervised release with restricted access to minors, computers, and the Internet. He will also be required to register as a sex offender. Santos was indicted in April and has been in custody since pleading guilty in August.
This case was the result of an investigation by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department in Florida working in conjunction with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as part of the Fresno Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. In addition, investigators received assistance in the case from the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Santos came under suspicion after investigators in Florida seized a computer known to be involved in the distribution of images of child pornography through the use of an America Online e-mail account. Investigators determined Santos had sent images depicting the sexual abuse of minors to one or more persons. Subsequently, agents executed a search warrant at Santos' residence at the Lemoore Naval Air Station, seizing a computer and related media. A forensic analysis of those materials showed they contained numerous images of child pornography, including several depicting violence. One of the seized videos ran approximately 29 minutes and showed children as young as 3 being sexually abused. When the search warrant was executed, Santos, a 17-year veteran and sergeant in the Army Reserves, was employed as a recruiter for the Army.
The charges against Santos are the result of Operation Predator, an ongoing ICE initiative to identify, investigate, and arrest those who prey on children, and the U.S. Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood (PSC). Since ICE launched Operation Predator in July of 2003, the agency has arrested more than 11,000 sex offenders nationwide.
Additional information about Operation Predator is available on the Web at www.ice.gov. ICE encourages the reporting of suspected child predators through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or www.cybertipline.com.
Project Safe Childhood was launched to increase federal prosecutions of violent sexual predators of children, and to reduce the number of Internet crimes against children including child pornography trafficking. As a part of PSC, the United States Attorney's Office has teamed with state and local agencies and organizations to increase law enforcement presence on the Internet, and to educate the public about safe Internet use, thereby reducing the risk that children might fall prey to online sexual predators. For additional information on the PSC initiative, please go to www.projectsafechildhood.gov or call the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California and ask to speak with the PSC coordinator.