This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Juan Antonio Villarreal, 53, of Houston, pleaded guilty Feb. 19 before U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore, who sentenced him to 120 and 240 months for the possession and distribution convictions, respectively. These sentences will run concurrently for a total 20-year federal prison sentence.
Additional evidence presented in court demonstrated Villarreal tricked an underage female relative into taking nude photographs of her and sending them to him, which he then circulated on the Internet. In handing down the sentence, Judge Gilmore stated that the photos of the young relative can never be removed from the Internet. Villarreal will serve 10 years of supervised release after he completes his prison term, during which time his access to computers, the Internet and children will be severely restricted. Villarreal will also be ordered to register as a sex offender.
This investigation began after a Beaumont police officer downloaded child pornography images from the Internet which were traced to a computer used by Villarreal.
On Aug. 31, 2012, HSI special agents executed a federal search warrant at Villarreal's Houston residence, at which time several images and videos of child pornography were discovered on a thumb drive in a computer located within the residence. One of the videos included a known minor child victim performing oral sex on an adult male.
Child pornography was also found on a desktop computer and five other thumb drives in the residence. A forensic exam on all the devices resulted in discovering about 1,425 images and 277 videos of child pornography.
Villarreal confirmed he was a third grade teacher at a Houston-area elementary school. He also admitted he had received, viewed and downloaded child pornography for about five years.
Villarreal has been in custody since his arrest Aug. 31, 2012, where he will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
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 1-866-347-2423 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.