According to court documents, Jose Manuel Rivera Jr., 35, of Melbourne, downloaded and collected more than a dozen movies depicting the sexual exploitation and abuse of prepubescent children, some as young as three years old. Rivera also admitted to molesting a toddler on two separate occasions when the child had previously lived in his family's home.
"HSI special agents identified Rivera as a child predator during Operation Sunflower, a nationwide operation focused on identifying sexual predators and rescuing victims," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. "As a result of our agents' investigative work, Rivera can no longer prey on innocent children. He will spend the next two decades behind bars."
As part of his sentence, the court ordered Rivera to forfeit the computer equipment he used to commit the offense.
He pleaded guilty to the charges Feb. 22.
HSI launched Operation Sunflower in November to commemorate the one-year anniversary in which the identification of a sunflower-shaped highway road sign led to the rescue of an 11-year-old girl in Kansas. The operation, which continued through the first week of December, identified 123 victims of child exploitation. Of that number, 44 were directly rescued from their abusers and 79 were identified as either being exploited by others outside their home or are now adults who were victimized as children. The operation identified 10 child predators and one victim in central Florida.
Victim identification and rescue efforts continue throughout the year under HSI's Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are 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, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.