From the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore:
Anthony Gonzalez, age 40, of Aberdeen, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to coercion and enticement.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Colonel Woodrow W. Jones III, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; Director Darrell R. Reider of the Swatara Township Police Department (Pennsylvania).
According to his guilty plea, between 2017 and 2019, Gonzalez used cell phones and the internet to persuade, entice, and coerce three minor females to engage in sexual activity.
Specially, in June 2018, Gonzalez made contact with an underaged female victim (Victim 1) on a social media application. Although Victim 1’s profile stated that she was 18 years old, Victim 1 informed Gonzalez that her actual age was 16 years old. During their communication, Gonzalez referred to Victim 1 as his girlfriend, discussed getting married to her, and initiated sexual conversations.
In one instance, Gonzalez asked Victim 1 to sneak out of her hotel room that she was sharing with her father to meet Gonzalez. On June 27, 2018, Gonzalez traveled from his Bel Air, Maryland residence to meet Victim 1 at the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania hotel. There, Gonzalez and Victim 1 engaged in sexually explicit activity twice. In one sexual encounter, Gonzalez recorded the sexual acts on his cell phone. Additionally, Gonzalez brought Victim 1 a cell phone with the ability to take pictures and videos as her cell phone could not. Following their meeting, Gonzalez asked Victim 1 “Do you always delete our messages from your phone baby?”.
Between 2017 and 2018, Gonzalez met Victim 2, when she was 13 years old. Gonzalez initiated a romantic online relationship with Victim 2. During their conversations, Gonzalez frequently held sexual conversations with Victim 2 and convinced the victim to send sexual images. Also, Gonzalez discussed meeting with Victim 2 in person. When Victim 2 declined and blocked Gonzalez multiple times, a mutual friend encouraged her to communicate with him.
Gonzalez met Victim 3 in 2018 when she was 15 years old. Gonzalez told Victim 3 that they were “boyfriend and girlfriend” and convinced her to send him sexually explicit images at his request. Victim 3 genuinely believed that she had to do what Gonzalez requested because she was his “girlfriend”. In total, Victim 3 sent explicit images over 500 times at his request.
As detailed in his plea agreement, on January 24, 2019, a federal search warrant was executed at Gonzalez’s Aberdeen, Maryland residence. As a result of the search warrant, law enforcement seized several devices including two tablets, three cell phones, and a SIM card. In an interview with law enforcement, Gonzalez admitted to engaging in sex acts with Victim 1 and saved the recordings to an internet storage system. He also admitted to law enforcement that he knew Victim 2 was a minor during their conversations and had approximately four sexually explicit images of her.
Gonzalez and the government have agreed that, if the Court accepts the plea agreement, Gonzalez will be sentenced to between 10 and 16 years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow has scheduled sentencing for February 24, 2022 at 9:30 a.m.
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 the United States Attorney’s 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. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the “Resources” tab on the left of the page.
Acting United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the Maryland State Police Department and the Swatara Township Police Department (Pennsylvania) for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul E. Budlow, who is prosecuting the federal case.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md/project-safe-childhood and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.