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December 18, 2015Corpus Christi, TX, United StatesChild Exploitation

Santa Claus impersonator arrested in southeast Texas for alleged distribution of child pornography

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A southeast Texas man who worked as a Santa Claus impersonator was charged Friday in a criminal complaint alleging he distributed child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This investigation is being conducted by the Corpus Christi Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force with the assistance of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Reynaldo Ramirez, 37, of Corpus Christi, is currently in state custody on related charges and is expected to be transferred to federal custody and make his initial appearance in federal court in the near future. The complaint was filed Dec. 18 and alleges Ramirez distributed the child pornography via peer-to-peer software.

According to the criminal complaint, this case began when authorities were able to successfully download various files containing child pornography from an Internet Protocol address that was associated with Ramirez. Authorities executed a search warrant at Ramirez’s residence, at which time they seized several digital devices. At the time of the search, authorities located a Santa Claus costume in Ramirez’s residence. When questioned about the outfit, Ramirez stated he had performed as Santa Claus for the past 15 years throughout the South Texas area, according to the allegations.

Ramirez had allegedly downloaded more than 1,000 images of child pornography ranging in ages from toddlers to pre-teens, according to information in the criminal complaint.

If convicted, Ramirez faces a minimum of five and up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Hugo R. Martinez, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.

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 14,000 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 2015, nearly 2,400 individuals 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.

Updated: 03/11/2016