WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A former Texas elementary school principal was convicted Thursday for enticing a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity. The charges resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Boynton Beach Police Department and the South Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
According to court documents, Stephen Anthony Paulsen, 54, of Fort Worth, used an online social networking application to send sexually explicit messages to an individual he believed was a 15-year-old boy for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity. When Paulsen committed this crime, he was employed as an elementary school principal in Arlington, Texas. The individual he contacted was actually an undercover law enforcement officer, posing as a minor. After several sexually suggestive conversations, Paulsen attempted to meet the boy when he believed the boy was home alone. Law enforcement found two condoms in Paulsen's pocket when he was arrested. At the time of his arrest, Paulsen was in South Florida visiting family.
"This conviction represents the fruits of a cooperative effort by local, state and federal authorities in the investigation and prosecution of child exploitation cases," said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer, Southern District of Florida. "During this time when our children are at ever increasing risk from predators who use social media and the internet, I am thankful to Dave Aronberg and the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office for joining forces in the cross designation of state prosecutors to attack the problem."
"This case is an example of our continued close working relationship with local, state and federal authorities. This combined effort will help remove these sexual predators from our community and make our county and state a safer place to live," said Florida State Attorney Dave Aronberg.
"One of the primary objectives of the Boynton Beach Police Department is the protection of our community's youth," said Chief Jeffrey Katz of the Boynton Beach Police Department. "The Boynton Beach Police Department - in cooperation with our valued federal law enforcement and prosecutorial partners - have taken important steps to protect our children from those who seek to shamelessly exploit their innocence. We remain committed to similar operations going forward."
Paulsen faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
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.