CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (08/05/2015) — 38-year old Christina Cortez has been arrested after allegedly producing child pornography while working for a Corpus Christi daycare center.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 38-year old Christina Cortez was taken into custody on Wednesday for allegedly producing child pornography while working for a daycare in Corpus Christi, Texas. The criminal complaint alleges that Cortez took and distributed photos depicting at least one (two to three year old) child “in sexually explicit positions and exposing the toddler’s private area.”
While authorities have not identified the specific daycare facility where the images were reportedly taken, KRIS 6 News reports that Cortez has worked for at least two day care facilities in the past few years.
Cortez is further accused of having distributed the images to 29-year old Matthew Harbin of Brownsville, Texas. Harbin is also charged in the complaint and is currently in state custody. He is expected to be transferred to federal custody.
The investigation began when Matthew Harbin allegedly emailed three images to an undercover officer in England. According to prosecutors, the first images sent were of a clothed child (not in sexual nature) inside a daycare facility. Harbin asked the undercover agent if he or she had a daughter and inquired about trading photographs. Harbin later sent five additional images of the same child which were said to be sexually explicit. One picture allegedly showed a female adult’s hand making contact with the child.
Homeland Security Investigations executed a search warrant at Yahoo, Inc. last month which revealed that the email address used to send the images belonged to Harbin. The investigation also revealed that Cortez had originally sent Harbin the images back in July of 2014.
The criminal complaint alleges that communications show both Matthew Harbin and Christina Cortez indicated a desire to sexually engage with children.
Cortez was interviewed by agents with the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, just before her arrest. According to reports, she admitted to taking photos while working at a daycare facility and communicating with Matthew Harbin, but she denied the photos were pornographic.
Cortez was arrested and made her first appearance in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jason Libby Wednesday afternoon. At court, she told the judge that she did not have money and requested a court-appointed public defender. An additional detention hearing has been scheduled for Monday, August 10th.
Both Cortez and Harbin face 15-30 years in federal prison if convicted of producing child pornography, and up to an additional 20 years for if convicted of distribution.
Disgusting… I can’t imagine how disturbed one must be to sexually exploit a child. The fact that the accused worked for a daycare and was trusted to take care of these children makes me sick to my stomach.
News reports have not identified the daycare in question, and it’s unknown if federal investigators have identified the daycare facility or the victimized child at this point. My only advice to parents in the Corpus Christi area who’s children attended daycare last year is to reach out to the Corpus Christi Texas Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for further information. While authorities can file criminal charges against the abuser, the family of the victim also has the option seek financial restitution through a civil daycare abuse lawsuit.
Sexual abuse at daycare is an extremely serious offense, and while nothing can make up for the harm done, I do hope that justice is served in this case.