This guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas. This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Marshals Service and the Brown County Sheriff’s Office.
Jacob Aniceto Jose Villarreal, 29, of Brownwood, Texas, has been in custody since his arrest in June on a related federal criminal complaint. He faces a total maximum statutory penalty of not less than 15 years or more than 50 years in federal prison, a $500,000 fine and a lifetime of supervised release. Judge Cummings ordered a presentence investigation report with a sentencing date to be set after the report is completed.
On June 25, HSI special agents executed a federal search warrant at Villarreal’s home and seized five computers, two telephones and three thumb drives.
According to documents filed in the case, Villarreal used his cell phone to create a video of a boy engaged in sexually explicit conduct. In addition, Villarreal admitted that he collected and traded images and videos of child pornography. Some of the child pornography was collected using peer-to-peer file-sharing software. Most of the images and videos depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct were received and sent via Villarreal’s cell phone.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Sucsy is in charge of the prosecution.
The 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 1-866-347-2423 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, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair 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.