NewsRegion Martin County


Sewall's Point police officer faces federal charges of attempting to sexual exploit child

Juan Antonio Garcia earlier was arrested on state sexual misconduct charges
Juan Garcia, Sewall's Point police officer arrested
Posted at 7:01 PM, Dec 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-06 19:01:32-05

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — A Sewall's Point police offer is facing a federal charge that he attempted to produce pornography of a 15-year-old boy, less than two weeks after being arrested by Martin County Sheriff's office of sexual misconduct with the child.

On Friday, Juan Antonio Garcia, 30, appeared in United States Magistrate Court in Fort Pierce to the federal charge.

Garcia’s detention hearing is Friday and his arraignment is one week later — both in federal Magistrate Court in West Palm Beach, Florida. If convicted, Garcia faces between 15 years and 30 years in federal prison.

On Nov. 22, Garcia was arrested on four counts of solicitation of a minor and one count of traveling to meet a minor.

Garcia made his first appearance in court on Nov. 24. He posted a $750,000 bond and was released from the jail to go on house arrest.

Garcia, five-year officer for the police department, earlier was placed on administrative leave without pay pending further investigation and disciplinary action up to and including termination. The town has about 2,000 residents.

According to the nine-page federal complaint, Homeland Security Special Agent Eric Urgo wrote: "I believe there is probable cause to charge Juan Antonio Garcia with attempted violation of Title 18, United States Code Section 2251 (a), which makes it a crime to entice a minor to engage in any sexual explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct."

Because the iPhone 11 was manufactured outside the United States, the complaint says it "travelled in interstate commerce."

The document's details mirror those in the sheriff's office arrest report.

On Nov. 22, the Martin County Sheriff's Office was contacted by the boy's father, who said he had looked through his son's cellphone and noticed sexually explicit message between the boy and Garcia.

The dad said Garcia was a family friend from years ago, including the son being in Boy Scouts with Garcia's nephew. Also the boy started working about five months ago in Garcia's taco truck but more recently was reluctant to be near Garcia.

WPTV spoke with the father shortly after the arrest.

"I just felt like where it was going, it was putting my son in a very dangerous place. I feel like my son is safe now," the father said, who is not being identified to protect the identity of his son.

"My son wasn't going to work with him on his taco truck, which I thought was odd because he loved it," the father said. "Then he started trying to set up times to take my son out to eat just to mentor him and my son wasn't going with him. He would say he was and then at the last minute he would cancel. So, Sunday night I took his phone away from him and I found all the texts."

Detectives arrived at the house and took the teen's phone.

The dad said the detective was up with Garcia "until 1:30 in the morning texting as if he were my son, and he sent him multiple nude photos and arranged to come over to the neighborhood park."

The father said he was soliciting his son for sex.

In text messages, Garcia asked the minor to accompany him to a nude beach in Saint Lucie County.

"It is alleged that Garcia instructed the minor via text message to put on a condom (which Garcia provided to the minor), masturbate, and send Garcia a photograph of the condom after the minor ejaculated," according to a Department of Justice news release. "It is also alleged that Garcia sent text messages to the minor’s phone instructing him to send Garcia a video of the boy masturbating and asking the boy whether he would consider performing oral sex on Garcia."

The next day, Garcia texted the minor’s phone, asking the minor to meet Garcia at a local park for oral sex. When Garcia arrived at the park, law enforcement officers apprehended him.

This case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse by the Department of Justice.

Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.