Jacksonville, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the filing of a criminal complaint charging Gregory Thomas Garcia (34, Orange Park) with commercial sex trafficking of a child. If convicted, Garcia faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 10 years, and up to life, in federal prison.
According to the complaint, beginning at least by October 2019, Garcia began communicating via text message with a minor victim, who was 16 years old at the time. A special agent with Homeland Security Investigations discovered the text messages between Garcia and the victim while investigating a separate crime. The victim confirmed to the special agent and a detective with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office that she had met with Garcia more than 20 times, and on each occasion Garcia had paid her to allow Garcia to sexually abuse her.
The victim also disclosed to agents additional messages that she had exchanged with Garcia via Snapchat. The victim agreed to let agents take over her Snapchat account in order to conduct an undercover investigation of Garcia.
From September 21-23, 2020, an undercover agent, posing as the victim, communicated with Garcia via the Snapchat account. In those communications, Garcia arranged to meet the victim in a parking lot and agreed to provide the victim with $150, a Sprite soda, and Starburst candy in exchange for the victim allowing Garcia to sexually abuse her. On September 23, 2020, Garcia obtained money, a Sprite soda, and Starburst candy, and traveled to the location where he had expected to meet with the victim. Garcia was then arrested by law enforcement.
A complaint is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Laura Cofer Taylor.
This case was 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 United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), 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/psc.