CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 28-year-old Odom man has been ordered to federal prison after he admitted to transferring obscene materials to a minor, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Lazaro Benito Rocha pleaded guilty Oct. 22, 2020.
Today, U.S. District Judge David S. Morales found Rocha to be in a position of trust and varied above the guideline range which resulted in a 36-month federal prison sentence. At the hearing, the court heard additional information, including details regarding the sexually explicit communications Rocha had with someone he believed to be a 14-year-old girl living in Corpus Christi. In handing down the sentence, Judge Morales noted Rocha was a teacher when he sent the text messages and photographs and that he took photographs of himself while he was inside his classroom.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the court asked Rocha whether he believed he had a problem with his sexual interests in children. Rocha responded with “I believe so.”
Rocha was further ordered to serve three years on supervised release following his incarceration during which time the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children and prohibit the use of the internet. He will also be ordered to register as a sex offender.
“Today’s sentencing is the result of outstanding collaboration between Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Corpus Christi Police Department’s (CCPD) Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS),” said Brad Scott, assistant special agent in charge, HSI Corpus Christi. “Working together we were able to identify this child predator and remove him from his position of trust where he had access to minors.”
At part of his plea, Rocha admitted that he had responded to an ad on Craigslist advertising a “good time” with a teenage girl. He continued communicating with whom he thought was a 14-year-old female which soon escalated into conversations of an explicit sexual nature via text messaging.
Using his cell phone, he eventually sent a photograph of his genitals.
The investigation revealed he was a part-time elementary music teacher at the Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi.
Previously released on bond, Rocha was taken into custody following the sentencing today where he will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
HIS, CCPD-ICAC and DPS conducted the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Popejoy prosecuted the case, which was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a nationwide initiative the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section leads PSC, which marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children and identifies and rescues victims. For more information about PSC, please visit DOJ’s PSC page. For more information about internet safety education, please visit the resources tab on that page.