HOUSTON — A local elementary school teacher was arrested Friday for distributing child pornography, announced U. S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Juan A. Villarreal, 52, of Houston, was arrested by HSI special agents Aug. 31. Villarreal taught third grade with the Houston Independent School District (HISD). He made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy K. Johnson, at which time he was ordered into federal custody pending a detention hearing set for Sept. 5.
The criminal complaint alleges that on July 10, an undercover officer working as part of HSI Beaumont, Texas, under Operation Safe-T-Net identified a computer that was making child pornography available via the Internet. The undercover officer successfully downloaded a movie file in its entirety which allegedly depicts a girl, about 13 to 15 years old, and a boy, about 11 to 13 years old in sexual abuse situations.
The undercover officer also partially downloaded two additional videos from the same computer. According to the complaint, the images displayed in this video depict a girl between 8 and 10 years old in various states of undress. There are various other images of the minor victims being sexually exploited.
Of the 24 images displayed during the video, about 19 allegedly depict child pornography. The closing credits provide "starring 8-year-old Tara," according to the complaint.
The computer that the videos were downloaded from was traced to Villarreal at a residence in Houston, and the case was referred to HSI Houston for further investigation. According to the complaint, on Aug. 28, special agents obtained information indicating Villarreal was employed by HISD and they conducted surveillance at Anderson Elementary School in Houston. The complaint alleges that Villarreal's car was located in the employee parking lot and that HISD confirmed he was a third grade teacher at the school.
HSI special agents executed a search warrant at Villarreal's residence Aug. 31 and discovered several images and videos of child pornography on a thumb drive inserted in a computer.
If convicted, Villarreal faces a minimum of five and up to 20 years in prison along with a fine up to $250,000. He also faces a possible life term of post-prison supervised release.
Investigative assistance was provided by the Houston Independent School District Police Department, Harris County Constables (Precinct 5) and officers from the Houston Metro Internet Crimes against Children Task Force.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Stabe, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.
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, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
A criminal complaint is an accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.