Leightey was convicted of interstate travel for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a person under the age of 12; use of a computer to attempt to persuade, induce, entice and coerce a minor to engage in sexual activity; and use of a computer to attempt to transfer obscene material to a minor, following a trial that occurred in United States District Court in Pensacola, in July.
He was sentenced today to 360 months imprisonment followed by five years of supervised release and ordered to pay a fine of $10,000.
"This case reveals a disturbing truth that some adults will go to great lengths to sexually exploit children -- in this case, traveling all the way from Ohio," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of the ICE HSI office in Tampa. "His sentencing should serve as a warning to other would-be child predators. Identifying and investigating those who victimize children is one of the most important responsibilities we have, and that is why ICE will continue working aggressively with our state, local and federal partners on these types of cases."
The three count indictment alleged that between Dec. 3, 2009 through April 22, Leightey communicated via the Internet with an individual who he thought was a parent willing to allow her children to be sexually abused. In fact, the individuals communicating with Leightey were undercover investigators. Leightey subsequently traveled to Pensacola from Ohio for the purpose of engaging in sex with a child, who he believed to be 11-years-old. Leightey was apprehended shortly after arriving in Pensacola after meeting with two undercover investigators, who he believed to be the parents of the eleven-year-old child.
United States Attorney Pamela C. Marsh, Northern District of Florida, praised the work of the ICE Office of Homeland Security Investigations, the Pensacola Police Department and the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), whose joint investigation led to the conviction in the case.
"Child exploitation and obscenity cases are one of the Department of Justice's top priorities. Our office will continue to aggressively prosecute these cases to protect the community and children, who are our most innocent victims," she said.
The investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign-national predators whose crimes make them deportable.
Launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 12,000 individuals through Operation Predator.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched by the Department of Justice in May 2006, 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, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany H. Eggers.