Fresno Man Sentenced to 24-Month Prison Term for Transmitting Obscene Material to Minors
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 23, 2009|
FRESNO, CA—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that RALPH ANTHONY MALDONADO Jr, 20, of Fresno, was sentenced today by Senior United States District Judge Oliver W. Wanger to two years in prison to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release for transmitting obscene material to a minor under the age of 16. He also has been ordered to forfeit all items used in the commission of the offense. The judge reserved his decision on whether MALDONADO will also be required to register as a sex offender. A jury returned a guilty verdict after a four-day trial on August 28, 2009.
The case was the result of an investigation by the Martin County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office and the Fresno Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Cyber Crimes Task Force that consists of representatives of the FBI, Fresno Police Department, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, and California Department of Justice.
According to Assistant United States Attorney David Gappa, who prosecuted the case, MALDONADO used digital cameras, computers, web cameras, and cell phones to produce and transmit obscene images of himself to dozens of girls under the age of 16 throughout the United States. Evidence at trial established that MALDONADO first came to the attention of law enforcement for conduct in which he had engaged when he was 17 years old. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children received information about the defendant’s sexually explicit chat sessions with different 13- and 14-year-old females. Separate investigations by the California Department of Justice and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office in 2007 culminated in statements by MALDONADO to investigators that he knew what he had done was wrong. Despite his promise that he would stop his conduct, it continued.
Two separate undercover detectives, posing as different 14-year-old females recorded the defendant as he sent sexually explicit communications to the officers. Testimony and evidence at trial established that there were approximately one hundred girls under age 16 throughout the United States and the United Kingdom with whom the defendant engaged in, or attempted to engage in, similar conduct. One victim from Iowa testified at the trial and noted that the defendant “crossed a line that should not be crossed.”
In rejecting the defendant’s request for a six-month sentence, Judge Wanger characterized the material transmitted by the defendant as “prurient, base, and vile,” noted that there were many victims who suffered verbal and psychological harm, and that the defendant’s conduct was “egregious and persistent.”
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), launched in May 2006, a nationwide initiative by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, PSC marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov or call the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California and ask to speak with the PSC coordinator.