A Long Beach man was indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with possession of child pornography and molesting a girl in Mexico, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday.
Jonathan Sandoval-Lepe, 31, has been under investigation since September 2017, when an undercover detective obtained child pornography from him over an online program he used to exchange porn with other users, according to Kent Wegener, captain of the L.A. Regional Human Trafficking Task Force.
Officials later found additional evidence in Sandoval-Lepe’s home, including electronics containing child pornography, Wegener said. During an interview with Sandoval-Lepe, detectives began to suspect that he had molested a child in Mexico.
“He asked questions regarding his contact with a minor and provided some details to indicate a crime had occurred,” Wegener said.
With help from the FBI, L.A. authorities located and interviewed the girl, who was between 12 and 16 at the time of the alleged attack, as well as her parents.
“We found that the suspect had somewhat of a relationship with that family,” Wegener said. “I can’t go into detail, other than he knew the family and made trips to Mexico on several occasions. On a couple of those occasions, there was sexual contact with a minor female.”
Investigators also said Sandoval-Lepe had social media conversations with the girl.
On Friday, a federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment against Sandoval-Lepe in connection with possession of child pornography, traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country. He was arrested Monday and is scheduled to appear in court for a bail hearing Wednesday.
He is scheduled for trial in October and if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of 130 years in prison. If he were given a lesser sentence, Sandoval-Lepe would remain supervised as a sex offender, Wegener said.
The investigation was a collaboration between the FBI and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s Human Trafficking Bureau, which houses the L.A. Regional Human Trafficking Task Force.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Human Trafficking Bureau at (323) 526-5156.
10:30 a.m.: This article was updated with the suspect’s age.
This article was originally published at 10:20 a.m.