LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A New Mexico man was sentenced Monday to 25 years in federal prison and a lifetime of supervised release for his conviction on federal child exploitation and child pornography charges.
Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigated this case.
Michael Ray Sepulveda, 39, from Silver City, New Mexico, must also register as a sex offender after he completes his prison sentence.
Sepulveda, who previously was convicted on state child sex abuse charges in California, was prosecuted under a federal anti-violence initiative that targets the “worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s district attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders primarily based on their prior criminal convictions for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.
Sepulveda was arrested Oct. 28, 2016, on a criminal complaint charging him with enticing a child to engage in sexual activity to produce child pornography, which was transmitted in interstate commerce. According to the criminal complaint, Sepulveda committed these crimes between July and November 2015. Court filings reflect that law enforcement authorities began investigating Sepulveda in the summer of 2016, immediately after learning about his crimes while investigating other conduct.
According to the criminal complaint, Sepulveda used an online social networking website to engage in sexually explicit communications with an underage minor between July and November 2015. In these communications, Sepulveda, who pretended to be a 16-year-old girl, sent sexually explicit photographs to the minor victim and persuaded the victim to send him sexually explicit photographs of the victim. Sepulveda also unsuccessfully attempted to meet with the victim for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.
On May 24, 2017, Sepulveda pleaded guilty to a felony information charging him with child exploitation and receiving child pornography. In entering his guilty plea, Sepulveda admitted that between July 29 and Nov. 15, 2015, he attempted to persuade the minor victim to produce pornographic images of the victim and attempted to meet the victim to engage in sexual activity through a social media website.
Sepulveda further admitted that while communicating with the victim, Sepulveda claimed to be a teen-age female. Sepulveda admitted sending the victim images of female genitalia and heterosexual pornography and having sexually explicit conversations with the victim in an effort to induce the victim to produce child pornography for Sepulveda. According to the plea agreement, between July 29 and Nov. 15, 2015, in response to Sepulveda’s requests for sexually explicit photos of the victim, the victim sent five pornographic images depicting the victim to Sepulveda.
Under the terms of his sentencing, Sepulveda is prohibited from using or accessing the social media website he used to facilitate his criminal activity. Also, if Sepulveda wishes to become a member of, visit, or access any other social media website, he must seek prior approval from his probation officer. Sepulveda also was ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution to the victims of his crimes.
The FBI and the Grant County (New Mexico) Sheriff’s Office assisted in this investigation.
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 16,000 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 2016, more than 2,600 child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 800 victims identified or rescued.
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. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
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 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.