Ramon Zelaya, 36, of Union City, was indicted Sept 21 on charges of conspiring to produce and distribute, and producing, distributing, receiving, and possessing, images of child sexual abuse, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Zelaya is charged by superseding indictment with one count of conspiring to produce and distribute child pornography, two counts of sexual exploitation of a child, one count of distributing child pornography, two counts of receiving child pornography, and two counts of possessing child pornography. Zelaya was initially charged by complaint in March 2019 and by indictment in November 2019.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Zelaya allegedly used Facebook to conspire with an individual in the Dominican Republic.
On April 21, 2018, the individual in the Dominican Republic allegedly sexually abused his or her minor child, created images of that abuse, and sent the images to Zelaya. Zelaya allegedly then distributed the images among various Facebook accounts he controlled.
Between Aug. 20, 2018, and Sept. 20, 2018, Zelaya, allegedly representing himself as a teenaged boy, used Instagram communications to persuade a child to send him a revealing photograph.
He then allegedly threatened to reveal that photograph as a means of coercing the child into sending him sexually explicit images. Zelaya allegedly distributed the images via Facebook.
The production charges each carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison, a maximum of 30 years, and a $250,000 fine. The distribution charges each carry a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of 20 years, and a $250,000 fine.
The possession charges carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and 10 years in prison, respectively, as well as a $250,000 fine for each. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Carpenito credited special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jason Molina, with the investigation leading to the charges.
He also thanked the Union City Police Department, under the direction of Chief Nichelle Luster, the Bayonne Police Department, under the direction of Chief of Police Robert Geisler, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office of San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic, for assistance in the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah A. Sulkowski of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Cybercrime Unit in Newark.
The charge and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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