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Child porn suspect indicted by federal grand jury

The North Hills woman is accused of photographing a 12-year-old girl being sexually abused by an older man. The photos have been widely circulated on the Web. She faces up to life in prison.

February 05, 2013|By Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times
  • Letha Montemayor Tucker, 52, of North Hills is led away by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after her arrest on suspicion of child pornography.
Letha Montemayor Tucker, 52, of North Hills is led away by Immigration and… (Associated Press )

A North Hills woman whom authorities allege plied a young girl with crack cocaine and photographed her being sexually abused by an older man was indicted Tuesday on federal charges of producing child pornography and sex trafficking.

Letha Montemayor Tucker was named Tuesday in a four-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury. If convicted of all the charges, Tucker would face a mandatory minimum federal sentence of 10 years and could get up to life in prison, authorities said.

The charges come a month after authorities sought the public's help in the investigation by releasing photographs of a man and woman depicted in a set of widely circulated child pornography photos.

Tips started pouring in immediately after the photos were released, investigators said.

Tucker, who goes by the name Butterfly, was located about 10 hours after the release of the photos and taken into custody, said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The alleged victim, who was about 12 when the photos were taken, was found within a week of the case going public, Arnold said. She is an adult now and is cooperating with authorities, he said.

In addition to photographing the girl being sexually abused by the man, authorities said, Tucker also committed sex acts with the alleged victim.

The photos were part of a child pornography collection known as the "Jen Series."

The 40-plus photos were first discovered by investigators in the Chicago area in 2007. Investigators said images in the series have been reported about 300 times and have been found on computers across the country.

The victim "didn't even know these images were out there," Arnold said.

"The horror of child pornography is it's for life, the victimization," Arnold said. "Once the photos are there in cyberspace, they're there forever."

The girl, identified in court records only by the initials J.M.M., lived in the same Los Angeles County residential hotel as Tucker, who worked as a prostitute, authorities said.

Around 2000 or 2001, the girl stopped attending school regularly and spent more and more time in Tucker's room, smoking crack cocaine Tucker provided, according to the indictment.

The girl was present when Tucker engaged in prostitution with clients and was usually high when this happened, authorities allege. Tucker instructed the child to take off her clothes in front of the clients, prosecutors alleged in court papers.

The faces of Tucker and the girl are "clearly visible" in the photos, according to the indictment. Tucker had an eyebrow piercing and a tattoo of a sleeping cat behind her shoulder, which made her easier to identify, authorities said.

The face of the man, however, is blacked out in the photographs. Authorities are still trying to identify the man, Arnold said.

"Obviously, we want him also to answer for his crimes," Arnold said.

Arnold said the alleged victim is "going to be dealing with this for a long time."

Now that she has been identified, she will receive a victim notification every time one of the images turns up in an investigation, he said.

Tucker is being held without bond and is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court on Feb. 13. Her attorney could not be reached for comment.

hailey.branson@latimes.com

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