The suspect allegedly began communicated via text with the victim, who was 16 years old at the time.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – A 34-year-old Florida man has been accused of the commercial sex trafficking of a 16-year-old girl.

United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the filing of a criminal complaint charging Gregory Thomas Garcia (34, Orange Park) with commercial sex trafficking of a child. If convicted, Garcia faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 10 years, and up to life, in federal prison.

According to the complaint, beginning at least by October 2019, Garcia began communicating via text message with a minor victim, who was 16 years old at the time. Authorities discovered the text messages between Garcia and the victim while investigating a separate crime. The victim confirmed to the special agent and a detective with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office that she had met with Garcia more than 20 times, and on each occasion Garcia had paid her to allow Garcia to sexually abuse her.

The victim also disclosed to agents additional messages that she had exchanged with Garcia via Snapchat. The victim agreed to let agents take over her Snapchat account in order to conduct an undercover investigation of Garcia.

From September 21-23, 2020, an undercover agent, posing as the victim, communicated with Garcia via the Snapchat account. In those communications, Garcia arranged to meet the victim in a parking lot and agreed to provide the victim with $150, a Sprite soda, and Starburst candy in exchange for the victim allowing Garcia to sexually abuse her. On September 23, 2020, Garcia obtained money, a Sprite soda, and Starburst candy, and traveled to the location where he had expected to meet with the victim. Garcia was then arrested by law enforcement.

A complaint is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

CW44 News At 10 will provide further details as this story develops.

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