Armando Ruben Avila, 48, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal to 65 months in prison to be followed by a life term of supervised release. Avila will also have to register as a sex offender and was ordered to pay $3,000 restitution to one of the Internet victims found in his collection. Avila pleaded guilty to the charges Oct. 25.
The investigation began when HSI special agents received information regarding a commercial child pornography website. Special agents determined the company to be a pay-for-access commercial website offering child pornography in a variety of media formats, including still images, VHS and DVD videos. Paid membership to this website was secured by sending a Western Union moneygram to individuals in Russia. One of the moneygram payments was tracked to Avila.
On Oct. 14, 2009, HSI special agents executed a federal search warrant at Avila's Houston residence, at which time an HP Pavilion desktop and a Toshiba laptop were seized. Also at that time, Avila admitted to searching for and downloading child pornography on the Internet.
A forensic exam revealed images of child pornography on both computers. At least 4,000 images and 50 videos of child pornography were found. Some of the images depicted prepubescent girls engaging in sexual intercourse and oral sex with adult males.
Previously released on bond, Avila was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Stabe, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.
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 and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.