A 39-year-old Florida man faces federal charges of production of child sex abuse imagery and enticement of a minor, following his arrest in Vancouver in July.
Samuel Aaron Leonard, resident of the Tampa area town New Port Ritchey, was taken into federal custody Monday, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Washington. He was scheduled to make an initial court appearance Monday afternoon in Tacoma.
Leonard was arrested in Vancouver on July 2, just outside of the home of a 14-year-old girl that he had spent months enticing online, prosecutors said. He allegedly communicated with the girl over social media and told her he was 20 years old.
According to the criminal complaint, Leonard first contacted the girl in April, and he spoke with her on various social media apps before sending her a cellphone, so they could text and call each other.
“Unbeknownst to the girl, Leonard had installed tracking and surveillance software in the phone so that he could monitor her location and read her texts and emails. (He) turned the conversations with the girl to a sexual nature and convinced her to send various sexually explicit photos,” the news release says.
Vancouver Police Department Cybercrime detectives and Kalama police officers met with the victim and her family in late June. Officers assumed the girl’s identity online. The police department, which was asked to help with the investigation as the primary Department of Justice Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force affiliate in Southwest Washington, previously reported that the undercover sting was meant to positively identify and expose Leonard.
During chats with Leonard, officers learned he was currently in Vancouver, making plans to meet the girl. Police were granted emergency warrants to surveil Leonard and examine his online accounts.
Leonard was located in downtown Vancouver; detectives continued texting with him, according to the police department. Leonard messaged that he was on his way to the girl’s home to drop off a cellphone, and was observed leaving his hotel on a bicycle.
He arrived at the girl’s home in Vancouver, where he was seen hiding a plastic bag in the backyard. He was arrested without incident and officers retrieved the bag, which contained the cellphone, packs of gum, chocolate bars and a love letter, police said.
Police searched three phones belonging to Leonard and found sexually explicit chats with the girl and detectives posing as the girl, thousands of depictions of child sexual exploitation imagery.
Law enforcement searched Leonard’s hotel room and found what was described as a “kidnapper’s kit.” The kit contained handcuffs, duct tape, rubber gloves, a blindfold, lubricant and a sex toy, several large knives, a hatchet and a .45-caliber handgun and ammunition, police said.
Leonard faces 15 to 30 years in prison for the production charge, as well as 10 years to life in prison for the enticement charge, prosecutors said.