Prior Sex Offender from Silver City Sentenced to 25 Years for Child Exploitation and Child Pornography Conviction
Prosecution Brought Under Project Safe Childhood and Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative
ALBUQUERQUE – Michael Ray Sepulveda, 39, of Silver City, N.M., was sentenced yesterday afternoon in Las Cruces, N.M., federal court to 25 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release for his conviction on federal child exploitation and child pornography charges. Sepulveda will be required to continue to register as a sex offender after he completes his prison sentence.
The sentence was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney, Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI, Acting Special Agent in Charge Jack P. Staton of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in El Paso, and Sheriff Raul D. Villanueva of the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.
Sepulveda, who previously was convicted on state child sexual abuse charges in California, was prosecuted under a federal anti-violence initiative that targets the “worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders primarily based on their prior criminal convictions for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to working with its federal and local law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute child exploitation offenses and ensure that those who prey on the most vulnerable among us are brought to justice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney. “Those who attempt to hide behind fake profiles on social media would do well to heed this warning: you will be discovered, caught, and prosecuted.”
“This sexual predator is looking at spending a very long time in prison. We hope this case sends a strong message that you won’t be able to hide behind a computer screen when you victimize children,” said Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI. “The FBI worked closely with Homeland Security Investigations and the Grant County Sheriff’s Office on this case, and we congratulate the U.S. Attorney’s Office on a successful prosecution.”
“This investigation is another example of how today’s child predators aren’t always in the same room with their victims,” said Jack P. Staton, Acting Special Agent in Charge of HSI El Paso. “There is no room in our communities for criminals who prey on our children, and our goal is to continue to identify, arrest and pursue prosecution of individuals who commit such heinous crimes.”
Sepulveda was arrested on Oct. 28, 2016, on a criminal complaint charging him with enticing a child to engage in sexual activity and to produce child pornography, which was transmitted in interstate commerce. According to the criminal complaint, Sepulveda committed these crimes between July 2015 and Nov. 2015. Court filings reflect that law enforcement authorities began investigating Sepulveda in the summer of 2016, immediately after learning about his crimes while investigating other conduct.
According to the criminal complaint, Sepulveda used an online social networking website to engage in sexually explicit communications with an underage minor (victim) between July 2015 and Nov. 2015. In these communications, Sepulveda, who pretended to be a 16-year-old girl, sent sexually explicit photographs to the victim and persuaded the victim to send him sexually explicit photographs of the victim to Sepulveda. Sepulveda also attempted unsuccessfully to meet with the victim for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.
On May 24, 2017, Sepulveda pled guilty to a felony information charging him with child exploitation and receipt of child pornography. In entering the guilty plea, Sepulveda admitted that between July 29, 2015 and Nov. 15, 2015, he attempted to persuade the minor victim to produce pornographic images of the victim and attempted to meet the victim to engage in sexual activity through a social media website. Sepulveda further admitted that while communicating with the victim, Sepulveda claimed to be a teenage female. Sepulveda admitted sending the victim images of female genitalia and heterosexual pornography and having sexually explicit conversations with the victim in an effort to induce the victim to produce child pornography for Sepulveda. According to the plea agreement, between July 29, 2015 and Nov. 15, 2015, in response to Sepulveda’s requests for sexually explicit photos of the victim, the victim sent five pornographic images depicting the victim to Sepulveda.
Under the terms of his sentencing, Sepulveda is prohibited from using or accessing the social media website he used to facilitate his criminal activity, and if Sepulveda wishes to become a member of, visit, or access any other social media website he must seek prior approval from his probation officer. Sepulveda also was ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution to the victims of his crimes.
This case was investigated by the Las Cruces offices of FBI and HSI and the Grant County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dustin Segovia of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office prosecuted the case as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and DOJ’s Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.justice.gov/psc/.
The case also was brought as a part of the New Mexico ICAC Task Force’s mission, which is to locate, track, and capture Internet child sexual predators and Internet child pornographers in New Mexico. There are 86 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies associated with the New Mexico ICAC Task Force, which is funded by a grant administered by the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General. Anyone with information relating to suspected child predators and suspected child abuse is encouraged to contact federal or local law enforcement.