San Diego prosecutors file charges against Florida man accused of abducting Escondido boy
Tony McLeod arrested in Tampa this week
Last Updated: 179 days ago
ESCONDIDO, Calif. - Prosecutors in San Diego Thursday filed sexual assault and other charges against a Florida man who allegedly abducted a 14-year-old Escondido boy he befriended online.
Tony McLeod, 36, was arrested in his hometown of Tampa, Fla., Tuesday morning after he and the alleged victim arrived there on a plane from Los Angeles, according to Escondido police Lt. Neal Griffin.
The boy put into protective custody until he could be reunited with his family, he said.
McLeod is charged with child abduction, meeting with a minor to commit a sex offense, online enticement of a minor, contact with a minor to commit a felony and enticing a minor to produce child pornography. Bail is set at $1 million.
If convicted, McLeod faces up to six years and eight months in state prison. Prosecutors with the San Diego County District Attorney's Office could file more charges against McLeod later, Steve Walker of the District Attorney's office said.
Florida authorities were working with their counterparts hear on extradition and jurisdictional issues, he said.
"I want him to know that he really messed with the wrong family," the boy's mother told 10News.
McLeod met the teen via an Internet game, and the relationship prompted the youth's parents to notify police in late May, according to police.
On Monday, the boy's family went to police when he failed to come home from school.
Investigators determined McLeod traveled to California and allegedly "enticed the victim to leave Escondido with him," Griffin said. Detectives then alerted law enforcement in Tampa that McLeod and the boy were en route there on an airliner, the lieutenant said.
"The second I got the phone call that he was gone, I knew, I knew he was gone, and I knew he had him," said the boy's mother, fighting back tears.
The family praised the efforts of Escondido police, who responded quickly after the boy's disappearance, pinging the suspect's phone and tracing him to the Los Angeles International Airport.
"We are ecstatic our son is safe," the father read from a prepared statement.
The statement explained how the boy had been contacted through an Internet chat room connected to an online PlayStation game.
When the couple found sexually oriented photos and messages had been sent, they changed all the computer passwords, banned the boy from going online and monitored his cellphone activity. They also drove him to and from school, making sure he would have no contact with the man who'd befriended him online.
"This is a family that had it together," said Det. Damian Jackson, who was instrumental in tracking McLeod and contacting Tampa police. "This was a slow, methodical process drawn out by a very savvy, manipulative predator, and there's no other way to categorize this person."
Police in Escondido and Tampa are now investigating to see if there are any other victims.
The boy's mother told reporters she hopes McLeod spends the rest of his life behind bars.
Copyright CNS contributed to this report