POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – A Florida man has been charged with luring a 13-year-old girl to Dutchess County for sex.
Damian Williams, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Thomas Rivera, 32, of Lauderhill, Fla., was arrested on Tuesday and charged with one count of incitement to a minor.
Rivera was accused of communicating online with the 13-year-old and persuading her to meet him in the town of Poughkeepsie.
Williams said that through the use of video game chats, Rivera found and tricked the teen into meeting him in person for the purpose of sexually exploiting him.
“The conduct alleged against Rivera is certainly terrifying to any parent,” he said, “and a reminder that a seemingly harmless video game can be weaponized by online predators.
“We urge anyone who cares for children to be mindful of their children’s online activities,” Williams said.
According to the complaint filed in federal court in White Plains, at approximately 4:50 p.m. on April 3, the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department received a call from the City of Hyde Park Police Department about a youth of 13 year old raped by a man named Thomas at a city hotel in Poughkeepsie.
Police were dispatched to the hotel and determined that Rivera was staying there. They went into the bedroom and he opened the door. The 13-year-old girl was found in the bathroom. She told police that Rivera attempted to rape her, police said.
Prosecutors said the child told an FBI agent that she met Rivera in February while playing an online video game. Afterwards, they communicated through various gaming apps and social media platforms, including Discord and Snapchat.
The girl said she told Rivera she was 14 and in middle school; he said he was 31 and would be 32 in March, police said.
According to authorities, the child said Rivera repeatedly asked her to take nude photos of herself and send them to her. He told her he was coming to see her, so they made a plan and he came to pick her up near her house.
Prosecutors said when Rivera was arrested, his phone was seized and revealed that there were sexually explicit messages between the girl and him from February 23 to April 3.
On April 3, Rivera was interviewed by Poughkeepsie detectives, and they said he admitted to meeting the girl online and that they began talking daily via voice calls and texts. He also told them that they had discussed sex and that he had traveled to New York to see her.
Rivera was charged in Poughkeepsie City Court with endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree sexual abuse. He was released on bail.
The charge of inciting a minor carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Williams said the investigation is ongoing and there may be other victims. If you have information to report, contact the FBI through its toll-free hotline at 1-800-CALL-FBI.