CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – An Ohio man was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in federal prison for coercing and enticing a minor to have sex.
This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas, along with Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston.
Harley Michael Peterson, 23, of Toledo, Ohio, was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison. He was also sentenced to 10 years of supervised release after he completes his prison term, during which time he will be required to comply with numerous conditions of release designed to minimize his contact with children and access to the Internet. He must also register as a sex offender. Peterson pleaded guilty to online solicitation Sept. 16, 2013.
When determining the sentence, Senior U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey took into consideration the need to protect the public and deter future criminal conduct. Additional information was also presented, including the fact that Peterson had been warned by friends in Ohio not to come to Texas to meet this child, yet he came anyway.
"This case illustrates the lengths child predators will go to groom their innocent targets to have sex," said Moskowitz. "Sadly, today’s technology in the hands of a predator with access to children has put our children at greater risk than ever before. HSI will continue to work tirelessly to protect our kids and bring their abusers to justice."
Between April 1 and Aug. 4, 2012, Peterson admitted he began communicating with a child he knew to be 15 years of age. He met the child online and their contact primarily occurred on a social networking website and an online computer gaming community website. The communications eventually progressed to telephone calls.
Peterson and the girl chatted explicitly about his desire to have sex with her who clearly identified herself as a 15-year-old. As the communications continued, Peterson agreed to travel from his home in Ohio to Corpus Christi to have sex with the child.
On Aug. 3, 2012, the girl was reported as a runaway by relatives. By examining her online activities, relatives were able to determine her whereabouts and those of Peterson, who was subsequently arrested in Corpus Christi.
Peterson will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
HSI and Corpus Christi Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force ICAC investigated this case.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE 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-THE-LOST.
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.