South Florida Man Sentenced to 10 Years for Attempted Online Enticement of a Minor

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

Miami, Florida – A federal district judge sitting in Ft. Pierce, Florida sentenced Zachary S. Spiegel, 38, of Jensen Beach, to 120 months in prison after a jury found Spiegel guilty of attempted on-line enticement of a minor.

For several weeks in January of this year, Spiegel communicated online and by text message with someone whom he believed was a 14-year-old girl named Shayla. In reality, “Shayla” was a fictional persona created by a 16-year-old boy who was trying to identify child predators in the area.  On January 9, Spiegel attempted to persuade Shayla to meet him in the parking lot of a Fort Pierce shopping plaza for sex in his car.  Spiegel sent Shayla graphic descriptions of the sex acts he would perform on her, as well as photos of his erect penis.  They agreed on a time and place to meet, but Spiegel did not make it.  Spiegel later explained to Shayla that while on his way to their rendezvous, law enforcement officers pulled him over for speeding and he decided to return home.  After this incident, the 16-year-old boy contacted law enforcement.

Spiegel kept communicating with a person he believed was the 14-year-old Shayla. As he had done before, Spiegel made sexually explicit comments, sent several more photos of his face and penis, and talked about meeting Shayla in person.

A law enforcement investigation led officers to Spiegel.  They executed a search warrant at his Jensen Beach home on January 20, where they found him in possession of the cellular phone he had used to communicate with “Shayla.”

Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Miami Field Office, announced the sentence that U.S. District Court Judge Paul C. Huck handed down on June 22.

HSI Miami, HSI Fort Pierce, and the Fort Pierce Police Department investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stacey Bergstrom and Justin Hoover are prosecuting it.  

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. Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Divisions Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), 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 www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 21-cr-14017.

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