FRESNO, Calif. - The former band director for Western High School in Tulare, Calif., has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release for possession of child pornography.
Raymod Harry Ferenci, 52, of Tulare, Calif., was sentenced this morning by Chief United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii. One of the victims in the case has filed a claim for restitution and the Judge has scheduled that matter for a hearing next month.
This case is the result of an investigation by the Fresno Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which includes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Tulare Police Department and the Fresno County Sheriff's Department.
"This case as particularly troubling because of the defendant's position as someone young people looked up to and respected," said Brian Poulsen, resident agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Fresno. "We have a message for child sex predators like this defendant. ICE will do everything in its power and use every tool at its disposal to keep our children safe - whether those children are around the block or around the world."
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gappa, who prosecuted the case, Ferenci admitted last year that he knowingly possessed a computer hard drive containing images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. According to court documents, Ferenci allegedly sent inappropriate text messages to several students at Tulare Western High School. While following up on those allegations, investigators discovered numerous images of child pornography on a laptop computer belonging to and used by Ferenci. During an interview with investigators, Ferenci admitted using a peer-to-peer software program to search for images of child pornography.
Ferenci was indicted in November of last year and pleaded guilty in April to one count of possession of child pornography. He was remanded into federal custody at that time.
The charges against Ferenci 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. PCS 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. For more information, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov or call the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California and ask to speak with the PSC coordinator.
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.