St. Petersburg Man Arrested for Attempting to Entice a Minor to Engage in Sexual Activity
TAMPA, FL—United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Robert Jay Berman (64, St. Petersburg) has been arrested and charged in a criminal complaint with attempted persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of a minor to engage in sexual activity. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, up to life in federal prison. Berman made his initial appearance in federal court today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas B. McCoun III and was ordered detained. A bond hearing is set for August 5, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.
According to the attached criminal complaint, beginning in February 2014 and continuing until his arrest, Berman engaged in a series of sexually explicit online chats, via text message, and through e-mail, with a person whom Berman believed was a 14-year-old girl. In fact, the person on the other end of Berman’s communications was an undercover agent. In the course of Berman’s communications, he sent the agent an e-mail with a photograph depicting his exposed genitalia. On July 31, 2014, after making arrangements to meet the “14-year-old girl” at a public location, Berman was arrested.
A criminal complaint is merely an informal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the St. Petersburg Police Department. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph W. Swanson.
It is another case brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.