PHOENIX - A federal jury convicted a Florida man yesterday on charges of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual contact with a minor, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Charles A. Soderman, 31, of Marathon, Fla., was found guilty after flying from Marathon to Yuma, Ariz., and then traveling to the Mexican border in an attempt to have sex with a male child as young as six years of age. He was arrested on March 9, 2009, by ICE agents running an undercover operation to halt sex tourism into Mexico as part of ICE's national Operation Predator initiative.
"My agents are aggressively pursuing child predators across the state of Arizona," said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Arizona. "We want to make sure that men like Charles Soderman are taken off of our streets and kept away from our children."
Soderman will remain in federal custody pending sentencing which is set before Judge Frederick J. Martone on Nov. 23, 2009. A conviction for travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual contact with a minor carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine or both.
The charges against Soderman are the result of the Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood (PSC) and ICE's Operation Predator, initiatives designed to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation. PSC was launched by the Department of Justice in May 2006 to marshal federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.
Operation Predator is an ongoing ICE 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. ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. 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 and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.