Leopoldo Flores Jr. of Port St. Lucie, Florida was arrested on October 27 for allegedly sexually abusing a child for several years.
Flores, 39, faces multiple counts of possession of child pornography, promotion of sexual performance by a child, obscene communication with a minor, and child cruelty. He is being held without bond at the Palm Beach County Jail’s West Detention Center. The press did not name an attorney for him.
According to the arrest report, the alleged abuse began when the child, now 11 years old, was in kindergarten and escalated over the years. The victim told a school counselor about Flores’ inappropriate behavior in October.
Flores reportedly bought the child a cellphone in 2016 with the consent of the child’s parents and used it to send sexually explicit texts and pictures via the chat application Snapchat. He coached the victim on how to take inappropriate pictures, which he told the child to send him almost every day, the report said.
Flores’ relationship with the victim is unclear, but the victim’s parents reportedly trusted him to care for their children. The parents told investigators that Flores often babysat their children. He stayed at their house in Palm Beach County on several occasions, most recently during the aftermath of Hurricane Irma because his home in Port St. Lucie had lost power.
The victim didn’t tell anyone about the alleged abuse because Flores said if the victim’s parents found out, they’d send the victim to a boarding school. The victim was also afraid of Flores because he had a gun. Records show Flores has a concealed-carry permit and often carries his gun on him.
Child pornography is defined as any image that depicts a minor engaging in sexual activity. Possession of child pornography occurs when someone knowingly possesses, views, or controls an image, video, or other medium showing sexual conduct by a minor. It is a third degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison for each offense, hefty fines, and lifetime registration on the National Sex Offender Registry. Sharing child porn upgrades the charges to a second-degree felony with even harsher penalties. Production of child pornography naturally carries the most severe penalties as a first degree felony.
While the term “child pornography” often refers to multiple images, Florida courts consider the possession of each individual image as a distinct crime, which means each image can be prosecuted as a separate count. Because of this technicality, many people arrested for possession of child porn are often formally charged with dozens or even hundreds of counts, which results in severe penalties.
In addition to jail time, a person convicted of possession of child pornography is also placed on sex offender probation and is added to the sex offender registry. Registered sex offenders have to comply with sex offender registration laws in Florida and throughout the U.S. for the rest of their lives.