TAMPA – A Tampa man was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in federal prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release, for attempting to entice a child to engage in sexual activity and has agreed to pay restitution to the victims depicted in child pornography he possessed. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
According to court documents, Richard Stephen Terry, 56, of Tampa, used the Internet to entice adult women to allow him to engage in sexual activities with their minor children. Agents identified Terry in multiple online chat rooms designed for individuals who are interested in the sexual exploitation of children, and he used the chat rooms to meet and discuss their interests and tactics. Terry communicated online and via text message with multiple undercover law enforcement agents located in various parts of the country between 2015 and 2017.
Between November 2016 and April 2017, Terry communicated with a woman he believed to be a single mother of a 10-year-old girl. In reality, he was talking to an undercover officer from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. In his conversations, Terry proposed meeting with the child and discussed, in graphic detail, the sex acts he wished to engage in with the child when they met. In order to add more credibility and persuade the undercover officer, Terry made up a story that he had been in an incestuous relationship with his two stepdaughters when they were minors and was looking to engage in a “fam life” sexual relationship with the single mom and her daughter. Terry stated that he ultimately did not travel to meet with the undercover officer because he was “scared it’s a set up.”
In June 2017, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at Terry’s home and found him in possession of more than 400 images and videos of child sex abuse material depicting young children being subjected to sadistic abuse and bondage. To date, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has identified 54 victims depicted in the child sex abuse material.
“Our top priority is protecting our children from those who would harm them,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. “The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and Homeland Security share this priority. Mr. Terry is not going to hurt any children while in prison. We are proud to have been a part of this investigation.”
The case was prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Middle District Florida Assistant United States Attorney Lisa M. Thelwell. Terry pleaded guilty February 27, 2020.
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 25,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child exploitation material, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2019, more than 3,500 child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 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.