On September 19th, 2023

San Mateo Driving Instructor Sentenced for Coercing Minors to Produce Child Pornography The California Department of Motor Vehicles assisted with this investigation

“We must protect children from sexual predators who coerce their victims to participate in activity that could potentially harm or haunt the child for life.   These criminals do not take into consideration anything but their own sexual gratification.  We extend our gratitude to the investigators who worked this case.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona

SAN FRANCISCO – On September 19, 2023, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that San Mateo-based driving instructor Johnnatan Zelaya Izaguirre (Zelaya) was sentenced to serve 18 years in prison for coercing and enticing teenaged girls to produce child pornography and related crimes.

Zelaya pleaded guilty to the charges on May 4, 2023. According to his plea agreement, Zelaya admitted that between November 2013 until January 4, 2022, he recruited minor girls—between the ages of 14 and 17 years old—to create sexually explicit images for posting online. Zelaya admitted that he had sex with at least two victims while they were minors and, on one occasion, filmed himself having sexual intercourse with a minor. He later distributed that video, depicting his sex acts with a minor, to a client knowing the minor was under 18 in the video.

Zelaya’s plea agreement describes how he recruited seven of his victims, using social media and in person. Online, he used social media accounts, including Instagram and Snapchat, to identify minor girls and to persuade them to produce sexually explicit content. In person, Zelaya used the driving school that he owned and operated to find students to recruit. When persuading his victims to create sexually explicit content, Zelaya offered to “manage” the sale of that content over social media. He told his victims about the content that customers wanted, how much the customers were willing to pay, and how much the minor should expect to make from videos, depending upon the type of video and whether they were nude or non-nude. At the time of his arrest on January 4, 2022, Zelaya had in his possession at least 41 videos and 10 photographs of the victims, as well as photos of additional unidentified girls.

On May 1, 2023, Zelaya was charged by superseding information with two counts of coercion and enticement of a minor, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b); one count of receipt of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252(a)(2) and (b)(1); one count of possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B) and (b)(2); and one count of distribution of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252(a)(2) and (b)(1). Pursuant to his plea agreement, Zelaya pleaded guilty to all the charges.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Orrick also ordered Zelaya to serve 15 years of supervised release which will begin after his term of imprisonment. Zelaya was immediately remanded into custody.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lauren Harding with assistance from Patricia Mahoney and Amala James. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI and the Redwood City Police Department with assistance from the California State Department of Motor Vehicles, the Atherton Police Department, and the Burlingame Police Department.

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