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DOJ: Corpus Christi man sentenced to federal prison for using Instagram to target children for sex

Steven Lopez, 31, will spend 12 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to coercing a child to have sex with him, DOJ officials said.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Corpus Christi man will spend 151 months (12 and a half years) in federal prison after pleading guilty to coercing a child to have sex with him over the internet. 

It was back in July 2019 when law enforcement learned that Steven Lopez, 31, had used Instagram to target a minor for sex. Officials seized his cell phone which had evidence of the crime on it, federal law enforcement officials said. Lopez attempted to hide his criminal conduct by deleting certain messages, however, forensic analysis brought to light multiple instances of incriminating content, a statement from the Department of Justice said. 

Lopez admitted to the crime in court on Nov. 8 when he pled guilty, U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery said.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Drew B. Tipton sentenced Lopez to federal prison. Lopez will also serve the rest of his life on supervised release following completion of his prison term, during which time he will have to comply with numerous requirements designed to restrict his access to children and the internet. 

During sentencing, the court heard evidence that Lopez continued to communicate with minors while awaiting further criminal proceedings. He must also register as a sex offender and pay restitution to identified victims. 

Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Corpus Christi Police Department.  

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Molly K. Smith and Dennis E. Robinson 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. 

For more information about PSC, please visit DOJ’s PSC page. For more information about internet safety education, please visit the resources link on that page.

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