TACOMA, Wash. – A 39-year-old New Port Ritchey, Florida, man is in federal custody tonight charged with production of child pornography and enticement of a minor, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), Homeland Security Investigation’s (HSI) Acting Special Agent in Charge in Seattle Eben Roberts and U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran announced today. Samuel Aaron Leonard was arrested July 2, in Vancouver, Washington, just outside the home of the 14‑year-old girl he had spent months enticing online for sexual abuse. Leonard allegedly communicated with the girl on a number of social media platforms and represented to the girl that he was 20 years old. Leonard will make his initial appearance in U.S. District Court Monday.
According to the criminal complaint, Leonard contacted the girl via a social media platform around April 1. Over the next few months, Leonard communicated with the girl on various social media sites and sent her a cell phone so that they could communicate by text and telephone. Unbeknownst to the girl, Leonard installed tracking and surveillance software in the phone so that he could monitor her location and read her texts and emails. Leonard turned the conversations with the girl to a sexual nature and convinced her to send various sexually explicit photos. The girl’s guardians became aware of the communication and contacted Kalama Police in late June. Law enforcement immediately seized both phones that the teen had been using to communicate and had an undercover officer take over the communication. Analyzing the communications and the cell phone information, the investigation revealed that Leonard had traveled from Florida to the Vancouver area via bus and was within a short bike ride of the girl’s home. When the officer, posing as the girl, revealed that the girl’s guardian had taken the phone Leonard had sent to her, Leonard said he would get her a new one. Police surveilled Leonard as he took a newly purchased phone, hid it in a package, and tossed the package over the fence to the girl’s backyard. Leonard was arrested shortly afterwards.
A search of Leonard’s hotel room revealed that he had a firearm and ammunition, four folding survival knives, a survival axe, and a number of items used to restrain someone, such as ten sets of flex cuffs and two sets of metal handcuffs, as well as duct tape and electrical tape. He also had various sex toys and lubricants.
Production of child pornography is punishable by a mandatory minimum 15 years in prison and up to 30 years in prison. Enticement of a minor is punishable by a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison and up to life in prison.
The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Vancouver Police Department, and Kalama Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Angelica Williams with assistance from the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is committed to combating the sexual exploitation of children. Investigations of child sexual exploitation are among HSI’s primary investigative priorities. The sexual abuse of children impacts the most vulnerable segment of our society.
ICE HSI knows the importance of education and community awareness regarding the dangers of online activity.
Providing children, teens, parents and teachers with information regarding the potential dangers of online environments and how to stay safe online can help prevent many instances of child exploitation. That is why HSI has partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s NetSmartz and the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces to develop Project iGuardian.
Project iGuardian aims to counter a disturbing fact: many online child predators can find victims online because children are not always aware of how dangerous online environments can be.
Project iGuardian is focused on keeping children and teens safe from online predators through education and awareness. The project is an outreach effort to share information about the dangers of online environments, how to stay safe online, and how to report abuse and suspicious activity. In addition, the iGuardians™ team is here to help kids stay safe online by providing safety tips, a number to call, and a website with links to more information and resources. Project iGuardian helps kids, teens and parents be smarter about online safety and stay safe from online sexual predators.
To request an iGuardian presentation at your school or organization, email email@example.com. To report a crime, call 866-347-2423 (TTY for hearing impaired: 802-872-6196) or visit the HSI Tip Line.
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, 1-800-843-5678.