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Columbia man pleads guilty to child sexual molestation and porn charges

Tuesday, October 7, 2008 | 1:24 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A 28-year-old Columbia man pleaded guilty at a pre-trial hearing Monday to multiple charges stemming from the sexual molestation of a 6-year-old girl and possession of child pornography.

Luis Gerardo Pereida faced three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor child, two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy and one count of possession of child pornography.

Boone County Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton sentenced Pereida to 25 years for each count of sexual exploitation and statutory sodomy and four years for the charge of possession of child pornography. However, the sentences will run concurrently, meaning Pereida will at most serve 25 years in prison.

Although it was too late to affect Pereida's sentence, Missouri recently increased the punishment for possession of child pornography. As of Aug. 28, possession of one video containing child pornography is a B felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, according to Boone County assistant prosecuting attorney Merilee Ann Crockett, who handled the case against Pereida. Each additional video carries the same sentence. Possessing child pornography used to be a D felony and before that a misdemeanor, she said.

The incidents in question occurred throughout 2007, when Pereida was living with his mother at 1515 E. Walnut St. According to an arrest report, Pereida was "disabled" and not working at the time. His mother would often baby-sit children in the home, which is how Pereida got access to his victims, court documents state.

The guilty pleas are a minor victory for the Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force, which spearheaded the months-long investigation into Pereida's activities. Formed in 2007, the Task Force specializes in investigating crimes committed over the Internet. It started focusing on Pereida in December 2007 after receiving information that he had recently purchased child pornography.

Andy Anderson, coordinator of the Task Force, said he was pleased with Monday's outcome, but acknowledged that there is still plenty of work to be done. A six-month study conducted by the Task Force in 2007 found more than 15,000 computers in Missouri offering to trade child pornography.

"We've still got a lot of kids who are victims of exploitation," Anderson said. "We're barely touching the tip of the iceberg."

The Task Force, the Columbia Police Department and the Boone County Sheriff's Department first searched Pereida's home in January, when they seized a computer suspected of containing child pornography. After examining the computer, the Task Force found 5,438 photographs and 329 videos depicting minors and children under the age of 12 engaged in sexual acts, including two videos of Pereida sexually molesting a child, court documents state.

According to court documents, during a second search of the home in February, Pereida admitted to molesting a 6-year-old girl and making photos and videos of sexual acts with her. Also, he said he had been molesting her since she was 4 years old. In addition the documents said that upon further investigation, police found that Pereida had also molested another 6-year-old girl.

Despite this discovery, Pereida was charged and pleaded guilty to crimes against just one victim, prosecuting attorney Crockett said. She would not comment on the possibility of a second victim.

The Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force can be reached at 442-4302 and at its Web site, mmictaskforce.com.


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