Tampa Man Sentenced To More Than 21 Years In Prison For Producing And Possessing Child Sexual Abuse Material And Engaging In Child Sex Tourism In Colombia

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FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday has sentenced Hugo Espinosa Chavez (59, Tampa) to 21 years and 10 months’ imprisonment, followed by 10 years of supervised release, for using a minor child to produce images depicting sexual abuse, traveling to Colombia to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a child, and possessing images of this child being sexually abused. Espinosa Chavez is a dual citizen of both Colombia and the United States. He is also required to pay restitution to the victim in the amount of $3,000. Espinosa Chavez had pleaded guilty on July 6, 2022.

According to court documents, from May through December 2020, Espinosa Chavez coerced, persuaded, and used a 15-year-old indigent child who lived in Colombia to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing photos of this conduct. In return, Espinosa Chavez gave the child money and other gifts. Espinosa Chavez located the 15-year-old child victim on Facebook and began communicating with the child via Facebook Messenger. Espinosa Chavez demanded nude photos of the child, offering money in exchange for photos of the child’s buttocks and genitals.

On December 12, 2020, Espinosa Chavez traveled from the United States to the Republic of Colombia for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with the child. Espinosa Chavez ultimately sexually abused the child victim, again offering money and gifts in exchange for sex. On other occasions, Espinosa Chavez took sexually explicit pictures of the child on his personal cellphone. In return, the child victim was given 60,000 Colombian pesos (about $17 in U.S. currency) for the initial pictures the victim had sent. When the pictures were taken in person, Espinosa Chavez paid the child a small amount of cash in exchange for taking pictures and enduring the sexual abuse perpetrated by Espinosa Chavez. Espinosa Chavez continued to demand more sexual acts from the child and would only pay the child if the specific requests were met. When the child victim resisted and did not fully cooperate, Espinosa Chavez said, “I feel cheated.”

On October 2, 2021, Espinosa Chavez was arrested on these federal child sex charges. During an interview with law enforcement, he admitted that he had paid the child money in exchange for sexually explicit photos, he knew the child was a minor, and he had sexually abused the child while in Colombia.

“This predator used social media as a weapon to manipulate a minor into engaging in the creation of illicit sexual material, then traveled internationally to sexually abuse the child in person,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tampa Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kristopher Pagitt. “Children today are more vulnerable than ever, but thanks to the diligence of our special agents here in Tampa, with the substantial assistance of HSI Bogota special agents, the Colombian National Police, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, another child predator has been put behind bars.”

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Tampa, with substantial assistance from HSI Bogota and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance in the investigation. The United States thanks Colombian authorities for their valuable assistance. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Erin Claire Favorit.

This is another case 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, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.