Los Angeles-area woman initially charged as 'Jane Doe' in child pornography case named in federal grand jury indictment
LOS ANGELES — The North Hills woman identified last month as one of two suspects sought in connection with a child pornography case tied to the San Fernando Valley was indicted Tuesday on federal charges of producing child pornography, as well as child sex trafficking.
Letha Montemayor Tucker, who uses the nickname "Butterfly," 52, was named in a four-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury. The indictment accuses Tucker of conspiracy to produce child pornography, production of child pornography, conspiracy to engage in child sex trafficking and sex trafficking of children.
If convicted of all four charges in the indictment, Tucker would face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and could be sentenced to as much as life in federal prison. Tucker, who is currently being held without bond, is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment in U.S. District Court Feb. 13.
The indictment comes one month after tips provided by the public resulted in the identification of Tucker as one of two individuals allegedly involved in the production of a widely circulated series of child pornography images taken about 11 years ago. The pictures show an adult man, "John Doe," and a woman, now believed to be Tucker, sexually molesting a girl whom investigators have now confirmed was between 11 and 13 at the time the images were taken.
"The sex trafficking of minors is unconscionable under any circumstances," said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. "As this case demonstrates, we will spare no effort in locating and prosecuting those who seek to take advantage of young, vulnerable victims."
According to the indictment, between 2000 and 2001, both Tucker and the victim lived in a residential hotel in the Los Angeles area. The indictment alleges that Tucker worked as a prostitute, provided the victim with crack cocaine and, on multiple occasions, directed the child to engage in sexual acts with Tucker's male clients. In or about May 2001, the indictment states Tucker contacted "John Doe" and asked whether he would be interested in having sex with the victim in exchange for money. Subsequently, Tucker brought the victim to "John Doe's" residence. There the defendant and "John Doe" engaged in sexual acts with the victim and photographed the encounter.
Based upon forensic analysis conducted by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), investigators believe that the images were produced in the Los Angeles area, specifically in the San Fernando Valley. The child pornography images were first discovered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents in Chicago in 2007. The material was submitted to NCMEC's Child Victim Identification Program, which determined the victim had not yet been identified and was not linked with other known child pornography images.
As a result of leads provided by the public, HSI special agents located the victim within a week after the case was announced January 3. She is safe and is cooperating with the ongoing investigation.
"The victim in this case was devastated when she learned from investigators that these sexually explicit images had been distributed over the Internet," said ICE Director John Morton. "The reality is, every time such images are viewed, the children shown are exploited yet again. That is why we owe it to these young victims to vigorously pursue these cases and hold the perpetrators accountable for their reprehensible crimes."
While Tucker and the victim were quickly found, the identity and whereabouts of "John Doe" remain unknown. In the images in the child pornography series, "John Doe's" face has been purposely obscured, but he appears to be a 40 to 50-year-old white male and would now be approximately 11 years older. HSI special agents continue to pursue several leads, but they are appealing again for the public's help. Anyone with information or tips that can assist in the ongoing investigation is encouraged to call 1-866-DHS-2ICE or visit http://www.ice.gov/webform/hsi-tip-form.
The announcement of the case against Tucker and "John Doe" was made in connection with HSI's Operation Sunflower, a recently concluded enforcement action aimed at rescuing victims and targeting individuals who own, trade and produce child pornography. Operation Sunflower was conducted as 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.