A judge sentenced a man he called a "master manipulator" to 324 months in custody and a lifetime of supervision for multiple sex crimes against Escondido teenagers, including luring a middle school student from Southern California to Florida.
Tony McLeod, 38, was found guilty of having sexual relationships with two minors from San Diego.
McLeod was convicted of seven counts of sexual exploitation of a child, one count of attempted sexual exploitation of a child, one count of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, one count of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity as to a 14-year-old victim and one count of attempted sexual exploitation of a child as to a 15-year-old victim.
One of the minors, who was 14 years old when he boarded a plane with McLeod to Florida, testified at the sentencing hearing.
"I lost my childhood and lost my innocence," said the victim in a Florida courtroom.
The mother of the 14-year-old victim testified in Florida that the family has lost their sense of security since the incident.
McLeod has been in custody since his arrest in June 2013, when he was caught attempting to lure a 14-year-old boy from Escondido, just north of San Diego, back to Florida with him.
Investigators said McLeod had traveled from Tampa to San Diego to meet the teenage boy and picked him up one day after school. The pair had been talking online, exchanging sexually explicit photographs via cellphone, and McLeod had convinced the teen to leave Escondido with him.
The boy was reported missing and Escondido Police Department investigators were able to link the teen to McLeod and determined they were traveling together.
McLeod and the teen had traveled from San Diego to Los Angeles, boarding a non-stop flight to Tampa at Los Angeles International Airport. McLeod had booked the teen’s boarding pass under the fake name “Justin McLeod.”
Detectives worked with airlines, the Los Angeles Airport Police and the Tampa Police Department to track down the pair.
When McLeod and the boy arrived in Florida, Tampa police officers met the airplane on the runway and arrested McLeod. The teen was rescued by police and questioned, and then returned home to his parents in Escondido.
According to evidence in McLeod’s case, he struck up a friendship with his two minor victims through online gaming in spring 2013. Eventually, the online contact turned into phone calls, texts and video chats in which they discussed their personal lives.
In May 2013, the relationships turned sexual. Investigators said this included the exchange of sexually explicit photographs and videos.
Both young victims testified against McLeod during the trial, Duffy’s office said.
The Florida man’s arrest and prosecution was a coordinated effort between multiple federal and state agencies in both San Diego and Tampa, the U.S. Attorney’s office said, “who worked tirelessly to collect and preserve evidence as to numerous electronic devices and interview witnesses in order to bring McLeod to justice.”
A restitution hearing is set for Feb. 26.