U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill said that U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara on Friday sentenced Francois Piedra (age 21, Lakeland) to 15 years in federal prison for distribution and possession of child pornography, followed by a life term of supervised release. The court also ordered Piedra to forfeit his computer storage devices, which he used to commit the offenses. Previously, on January 21, 2011, Piedra pleaded guilty.
According to court documents, on June 11, 2010, Piedra distributed child pornography to an FBI agent using a peer-to-peer file-sharing program that enables users to create private networks for sharing digital files. On July 13, 2010, agents executed a search warrant at Piedra's home and seized his laptop computer, computer tower, and several hard drives which contained child pornography. When agents examined Piedra's computer storage devices, they found over 10,000 pictures and 451 videos depicting the rape, sexual torture, and sexual exploitation of primarily prepubescent boys and infants. In addition, agents located many chats and text documents on Piedra's storage devices which were about the sexual assault and exploitation of children.
Agents also interviewed Piedra, who admitted that he had been collecting child pornography for the last eight years, since he was 12 years old. He also stated that he traded child pornography using several file-sharing programs, that he collected images depicting boys between the ages of 5 and 10 years old, and that he chatted with minors about sex on numerous Internet websites.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Karen L. Gable.
The case was 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 exploit children via the Internet, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.