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Child Exploitation

Chicago-area man sentenced to 50 years in prison for sexually exploiting 11 children to produce child pornography

CHICAGO — A former resident of Des Plaines, Ill., was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison for sexually molesting children between 2 and 11 years old to produce child pornography.

This sentence was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Gary J. Hartwig, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Chicago.

Bobby Cruz, 34, pleaded guilty in September to one count of interstate travel to engage in sex with a minor and two counts of producing child pornography. This plea agreement resolved separate federal cases that were brought in both the Northern and Central districts of Illinois. He has remained in federal custody since his arrest in November 2011.

In an emotional sentencing hearing Wednesday afternoon, two victims and a parent of six other victims told U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow Jr. about the traumatic damage Cruz inflicted upon their lives.

"The harm to the victims is incalculable," Judge Dow said in imposing the maximum sentence under the terms of Cruz's plea agreement. The "victims are the most vulnerable in society" and Cruz's crimes were "brazen beyond belief," the judge added.

Cruz had sexually molested nine children and produced child pornography with seven of those victims. He also sexually exploited two other victims to produce child pornography. He sexually exploited boys and girls between the ages of 2 and 11 when the abuse began. None of the victims were random; all were children Cruz had access to. Cruz was ordered to remain under court supervision for life, and he must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence. There is no parole in the federal prison system.

"The defendant has imposed a life sentence on each one of these victims," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennie Levin argued in seeking the 50-year sentence.

"No amount of prison time seems sufficient for the unspeakable trauma Cruz inflicted on his innocent victims," said Hartwig.

The investigation of Cruz began just before he was arrested when Cruz traded images of child pornography with an undercover law enforcement officer. Ultimately, agents seized 300 videos and images of homemade child pornography from Cruz's residence, along with 1,130 additional videos and images he possessed.

The investigation is part of 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.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page. 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.