Former Airman Enters Guilty Plea to Possessing More than 15,000 Child Sexual Assault Material Images, Videos in Project Safe Childhood Case

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

ALBANY, Ga. – A former U.S. Air Force servicemember previously stationed at Moody Air Force Base admitted he possessed child sexual assault materials resulting from a Project Safe Childhood case.

Ricardo Garcia, 25, of Valdosta, Georgia, pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing of child pornography before U.S. District Judge Louis Sands on April 26. Garcia faces a maximum of 20 years of imprisonment to be followed by five years to life of supervised release and a maximum $250,000 fine per count. In addition, Garcia will have to register as a sex offender upon his release from federal prison. There is no parole. Sentencing has been scheduled for July 26, at the Albany, Georgia, federal courthouse.

“Downloading child sexual assault material is a hideous crime against the most innocent people in our society. Our office will pursue federal prosecution against these types of child predators,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “The successful outcome in this case—and others like it—is the direct result of a cohesive response from a mixture of caring citizens, responsible businesses, child advocacy groups, plus local, state and federal law enforcement. Rooting out child predators and bringing them to justice takes all of us.”

“This sentence sends the message to Garcia and others like him that relish in the horrific images of children being abused, that we are determined to find you and ensure you face justice,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “HSI and its law enforcement partners are committed to protecting our most vulnerable population from exploitation.”

According to court documents and evidence submitted in court, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) via the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force in August 2020. The tip revealed Dropbox, Inc. captured an upload of two child pornography videos, which an investigation ultimately revealed belonged to Garcia. A search warrant was executed at Garcia’s Valdosta, Georgia, apartment on Sept. 11, 2020, and a number of electronic devices were seized. A forensic investigation found Garcia’s Dropbox contained approximately 15,000 images and 40 videos of child sexual assault material. The images contained child victims including infants, toddlers, prepubescent and teens. They also contained bondage, bestiality and sodomy.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (HSI) with assistance from and the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, GBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Assistant U.S. Attorney Katelyn Semales is prosecuting the case.