ORLANDO, Fla. — A man residing in Palm Bay, Fla., was sentenced Thursday to 235 months in federal prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release. The case was investigated by the Cocoa Beach Child Exploitation Task Force, which consists of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Brevard County Sheriff's Office and the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.
Task force members arrested Rafael Gonzalez, 51, a registered sexual predator, on child pornography violations after serving a search warrant at his Palm Bay residence. They discovered images of child pornography on his computer. Forensic analysis of his computer confirmed that he also used the computer to distribute child pornography.
As the investigation progressed, HSI special agents uncovered several more victims of Gonzalez. The victims are all adults, but Gonzalez had exploited them when they were children. They all agreed to testify at his trial.
"Child predators are some of the most heinous criminal offenders," said Sue McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. "HSI works tirelessly to investigate these predators and make sure they are prosecuted for the crimes they commit."
Gonzalez pleaded guilty in March 2012 to distribution of child pornography. He had previously been convicted of sexual battery on two minor children in the state of Florida and was serving a state probationary sentence for that crime at the time of his arrest.
His arrest was part of a larger 2011 enforcement initiative called Operation Safe Summer. The operation focused on suspects who were actively soliciting children for sex, and possessing and distributing images and videos of child pornography. The operation concluded Aug. 18, 2011, and 26 individuals were charged.
This investigation was part of 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-DHS-2ICE 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, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.