The sentencing follows an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Washington, D.C., and the Niagara Regional Police with assistance from the Northern Virginia/District of Columbia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
"HSI is committed to the investigation of child predators like former firefighter Johnny Soza who undermine the public's trust," said HSI Washington, D.C. Special Agent in Charge John P. Torres. "HSI will continue to work diligently with our law enforcement partners, both domestically and internationally, to bring child predators to justice."
Soza pleaded guilty to enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity on Aug. 10. According to court records, the HSI investigation into Soza began after a father in Canada found sexually explicit photos of his daughter and conversations between his daughter and Soza on her iPod. The girl met Soza online and informed him that she was a 15-year-old virgin. From April 2011 through February 2012, Soza enticed the girl to send dozens of naked photos of herself and engage in sexually explicit conduct for him using a webcam. Soza also made plans on multiple occasions to travel to Canada to have sexual relations with her and bring her to the United States. On or about Feb. 17, he drove from the United States to Canada and engaged in sexual intercourse with her.
In addition to the 15-year-old victim, Soza was simultaneously enticing several other minor girls between the ages of 12 and 15, sending thousands of text messages to the young girls.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood and information about Internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc.
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 & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
HSI is a founding member and the U.S. representative of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen C. Cain.