COLUMBIA — Boone County Internet crimes investigators are asking parents to contact them if their children have spent time at the house of a suspect in a sex crimes case.
Luis Gerardo Pereida, 28, of the 1500 block of E. Walnut Street, was arrested on suspicion of molesting two Columbia girls after turning himself into the Boone County Circuit Court on Tuesday, said Andy Anderson, coordinator of the Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force.
Pereida is charged with three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor child, two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy and one count of possessing child pornography. If convicted on either count of statutory sodomy, Pereida may be sentenced to life in prison, according to Missouri’s statutes.
“Anytime a child is molested it is a major problem,” Anderson said. “If a person has sexual desire for children, it’s dangerous.”
The Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force began investigating Pereida in December after receiving information that he possessed child pornography. On January 10, authorities served a search warrant of Pereida’s home and seized his computer.
They discovered pictures of Columbia children taken in Pereida’s home on his computer, including several photographs and two videos of a girl being molested, Anderson said.
Investigators identified the child in the video with the suspect. They also located a second girl who was thought to be a victim of molestation by the suspect, Anderson said. Detectives notified their parents. Both victims were between four and six years old at the time they were molested.
Authorities also found over 5,000 images and videos depicting sexual acts on young children. It is believed Pereida downloaded these files from various Web sites.
On February 15, investigators used the information they gathered to serve a second search warrant and arrested Pereida for possession of child pornography. He was released from the Boone County Jail after posting $4,500 bond the same day.
Pereida’s mother, whom he lived with, would often baby-sit other people’s children in her home, Anderson said. It is believed that Pereida molested these children when his mother left him alone with them, Anderson said.
According to the Boone County Jail, Pereida’s bond was posted at $27,000, but as of 6:30 p.m. Tuesday he was not being held there. As a condition of the bond Pereida may have no contact with any person under 17 years old and can have no access to computers, the Internet, cameras or recording equipment.
The Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force was created in January 2007 to investigate Internet crimes against children. Anderson said that they have been arresting a lot of people for possessing child pornography. It has been a persistent problem.
The task force does undercover work as well. Investigators pose as minors and create profiles in chat rooms, on MySpace, Facebook and anywhere else children may go in order to protect them from predators.
Investigators also receive information from people who contact them with information through their phone number and on their Web site, mmictaskforce.com.
“We do anything it takes (to protect children),” Anderson said.
According to previous Missourian reports, the task force had arrested 42 people for committing Internet crimes against children as of June 2007.
“Parents should constantly talk to their kids about people being inappropriate with them,” Anderson said.
Most child molestation does not occur with a stranger Anderson said, but instead with a close friend or family member.
“If someone is making (children) feel uncomfortable they should go talk to their parents,” Anderson said. “Even if nothing happens.”
The Task Force is asking that parents talk to their children and contact authorities if their children indicate the suspect might have touched or photographed them. The Task Force can be reached at 442-4302 or on their Web site at mmictaskforce.com.
Missourian reporter Ryan Neal contributed to this story.