Federal authorities have arrested a 24-year-old California man, charging him with traveling to Ohio to have sex with a 14-year-old Medina girl he met over the Internet.
Cleveland FBI agents said the man, Edwin Franco Rolffo-Zavala, of Navato, was charged Friday with federal charges of engaging in aggravated sexual abuse of a child, engaging in the sexual exploitation of a child and certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of a child.
If convicted, he faces a minimum 30 years and maximum life in federal prison.
Medina Police Chief Patrick Berarducci said Rolffo-Zavala was arrested about 3:30 a.m. Jan. 21, when Officer Jim Terwilliger pulled into Sam Masi Park on Gates Mills Boulevard during his patrols.
Terwilliger spotted a car parked there and investigated, Berarducci said.
“It’s a pretty isolated location back there so he suspected something was happening,” Berarducci said.
Terwilliger found Rolffo-Zavala and the 14-year-old girl inside the vehicle. The man told Terwilliger he and the girl were cousins. The girl told a different story — that she and Rolffo-Zavala had been chatting online for nine months, and the man had come to Medina so he could meet her.
Berarducci said the girl was with Rolffo-Zavala willingly, but further investigation revealed the man may have had sex with her. He was arrested on a charge of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and taken to the Medina County Jail, where his bond was set at $150,000.
Berarducci said a search of Rolffo-Zavala’s laptop computer, which he’d brought with him to Medina, revealed “a large amount” of videos depicting the girl in sexual acts recorded while the two communicated using Skype, an Internet video telephone service.
Berarducci said cell phone records showed that over nine months Rolffo-Zavala had sent more than 35,000 messages to the girl, who was 13 when she met him in a chat room. The messages and videos showed Rolffo-Zavala was aware of the girl’s age, the chief said.
In addition, the chief said the laptop contained videos of “upwards of 50″ other children, including three 12-year-old Medina girls. Berarducci said the younger girls were introduced to Rolffo-Zavala through the 14-year-old girl at a slumber party.
The chief said the vast majority of the girls in the other videos have not been identified, and it doesn’t appear any of them knew they were being recorded.
After reviewing the evidence, Berarducci said detectives asked the FBI for assistance.
FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson said they searched Rolffo-Zavala’s home in California and discovered more evidence.
Anderson said the Rolffo-Zavala may face more charges as FBI agents continue to investigate.
Federal marshals took Rolffo-Zavala into custody Monday, after local charges were dropped.
Berarducci said it was important they investigate this case because it’s possible this isn’t the first time Rolffo-Zavala met up with one of the girls in the videos.
“How many people travel from California to Medina, Ohio, to have sex with a 14-year-old child?” the chief said. “And if he did it once, how many other times has he done this?”
Berarducci said these situations could be avoided by parents more tightly monitoring their children’s phone and Internet use.
“I think parents need to be vigilant and check their children’s phones, and they need to know where their kids are,” Berarducci said. “There’s no safe harbor — predators can connect with your kids at all hours of the day.
“If you see something or you think you suspect something, give us a call. It doesn’t hurt to give us a call.”
Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.