On October 26, 2023, a jury in Ellis County, Texas convicted 28-year-old Deandre DeSuza of Las Vegas, Nevada of trafficking a minor. He was sentenced to life in prison by Judge Cindy Ermatinger.
According to prosecutors, in October 2021, DeSuza began an online relationship with a 14-year-old girl from Ellis County on social media platforms TikTok and Discord. He allegedly groomed the victim by gaining her trust and asking her to share personal information. DeSuza then traveled to Texas where he allegedly transported the victim to a hotel and sexually assaulted her.
The victim's family reported her missing when they saw disturbing messages on her phone. The sheriff's office located the victim after DeSuza dropped her off near her home. Though she initially denied anything happened, the victim later described being assaulted at the hotel. Forensic evidence from a sexual assault exam corroborated her account.
Description of the case
Around October 31, 2021, DeSuza began an online relationship with an Ellis County 14- year-old teenager. He started following her on TikTok, and they began to chat on Discord, an instant messaging and VOIP social platform. DeSuza groomed the child, asking her to confide in him about her mental health issues and complimenting her appearance. DeSuza flew to the metroplex and drove to Ellis County specifically for the purpose of sexually assaulting the child. He transported the child to a neighborhood hotel where he took explicit photographs and sexually assaulted the child. The family noticed the child was missing, saw disturbing messages on her phone and called 911. When DeSuza took the child home, he saw an Ellis County Sheriff deputy’s vehicle outside of the home and then dropped the child off at a nearby creek. The child initially told her family nothing had happened, but later described sex acts in the hotel. She was immediately taken for a sexual assault nurse exam at Cook Children’s and forensic evidence was collected. DNA results confirmed that DeSuza sexually assaulted the child.
The Ellis County Sheriff’s Office retrieved surveillance videos and records from the hotel and was able to track DeSuza to Las Vegas. Federal Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) joined the case and searched DeSuza’s Nevada home. HSI collected several electronic devices from his room and extracted data. The extractions contained many images of anime depictions of child sexual materials, child sexual abuse materials, explicit images DeSuza took of the child while they were at the hotel, and screenshots of their video chats from Discord. HSI also found images of “The pedo bear” on his devices, a known symbol of pedophiles on the dark web, as well as several search histories and web histories for pornographic sites simulating child sexual abuse materials or actual child sexual abuse materials.
Investigators tracked DeSuza to Las Vegas and searched his home, finding electronic devices containing explicit images of the victim along with child sexual abuse materials. Data also showed communications between DeSuza and the victim.
“Human trafficking has been a target for law enforcement and prosecutors across the state of Texas because it can be deadly for our most vulnerable: our children. Trafficking adds an additional element of power for child abusers: the physical removal of a child from a safe environment for the specific purpose of violating their innocence. In this case, a predator boarded a plane with the intent to isolate and abuse one of our Texas children, and our jury could not allow him to remain free,” stated District Attorney Ann Montgomery. “Victims of child sexual abuse do have the hope of healing if they have support and justice; they deserve it. Our law enforcement, DA’s Office, and Ellis County citizens continue to surround our children with these things, and I am proud to be a part of the healing process for our survivors.”
Prosecutors Grace Pandithurai and Kayce Witt presented evidence including DNA results, surveillance footage, and extracted data. The Ellis County Sheriff's Office and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation.