After-School Program Employee Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to More Than 17 Years in Prison for Producing, Receiving, Distributing, and Possessing Child Pornography
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that RENE CARDONA, a former employee of an afterschool program in the Bronx, was sentenced to 17½ years in prison for producing, receiving, distributing, and possessing child pornography. On April 9, 2015, CARDONA was found guilty by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams following a bench trial. CARDONA, who was arrested on April 30, 2014, has been detained since his arrest.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Rene Cardona sexually exploited and victimized young children, including children he was supposed to care for at an afterschool program. He preyed on the most innocent and vulnerable in our community.”
According to the Complaint and other documents filed in this case, and statements made in related court proceedings:
On or about March 13, 2014, the Guam Police Department received information that an 11-year-old boy (“Victim-1”), while residing in Guam, produced child pornography for an adult male in New York, New York, later identified as CARDONA. Victim-1 met CARDONA over the social media site Instagram in or about February 2014. FBI agents in Guam subsequently obtained a search warrant directed to Instagram, which revealed that, in or about February 2014, CARDONA and Victim-1 traded photographs, with CARDONA repeatedly asking Victim-1 to provide sexually explicit photographs of himself. Victim-1 eventually provided CARDONA with five sexually explicit photographs of himself engaged in the lascivious exhibition of his genitals.
After identifying CARDONA’s residence, and learning that CARDONA had been employed in an afterschool program located in the Bronx, New York, law enforcement agents obtained a search warrant for CARDONA’s residence. During the execution of the search warrant, CARDONA admitted to law enforcement agents that he had engaged in the chats with Victim-1 described above. CARDONA further admitted, among other things, that: (1) CARDONA had had sexual contact with a 14-year-old boy (“Victim-2”); (2) CARDONA took three to four sexually explicit photographs of Victim-2; and (3) CARDONA had had inappropriate sexual contact with children, including children he had encountered through an afterschool program. CARDONA’s Instagram account further reflects that in or about February 2014, CARDONA provided an image of Victim-2 engaged in sexually explicit conduct to another individual over the Internet.
During the course of the search of CARDONA’s residence, law enforcement agents identified a laptop computer and an iPhone, which were each later confirmed to belong to CARDONA. Forensic analysis revealed that the laptop and iPhone contained hundreds of images and videos that depicted actual minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Some of the files contained on the laptop and iPhone depicted pre-pubescent minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
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For the offenses with which he was convicted, CARDONA faced a statutory mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison. In addition to his term of imprisonment, CARDONA, 23, was also sentenced to 10 years of supervised release.
CARDONA worked at the Betances summer camp and afterschool programs in the Bronx from 2012 to approximately 2014 and thereafter as a mentor for youths at the Youth Men’s Initiative at Betances Community Center from January to April 2014. Cardona also worked as a volunteer at the Betances Community Center at various times starting in 2011. The investigation of CARDONA’s conduct relating to inappropriate sexual contact with youths in violation of state law is being handled by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Mr. Bharara thanked and praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York City Police Department in this matter, as well as the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
This case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Gina Castellano and Andrew DeFilippis are in charge of the prosecution.