Ken Paxton

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Abbott's Internet Bureau Obtains Indictments Against Six Child Predator Suspects Arrested In Hays County

AUSTIN - Prosecutors for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's Internet Bureau, in conjunction with Hays County District Attorney Mike Wenk, obtained grand jury indictments Wednesday afternoon against six men recently arrested in the county as they attempted to meet 13-year-old "children," allegedly for sex.

"We are putting on notice child predators who would attempt to have sex with children," said Attorney General Abbott. "We will lock you up, get you indicted and send you to prison."

The indicted men allegedly traveled from Austin, Hutto, San Marcos and Houston to meet what they thought would be children they met in Internet chat rooms. The children turned out to be Internet Bureau investigators posing as 13-year-old girls online. Each of the suspects allegedly offered to drive to a predetermined location along I-35 to meet the children for sex.

Indicted on charges of attempted sexual performance of a child, a third-degree felony, and criminal solicitation of a minor, a second-degree felony (Pacheco only), are:

Marcus Stephen Sterling, 32, of Austin (arrested July 30)
Sanmat Kumar Panigrahi, 38, of Austin (arrested July 25)
Ravi Venkataramiah, 39, of Houston (arrested July 25)
Daniel Robert McCarthy, 42, of Austin (arrested July 18)
Christopher Michael Pacheco, 32, of San Marcos (arrested July 16)
Victor Lawrence Gage, 20, of Hutto (arrested June 24)

(Sterling, Panigrahi, Venkataramiah, McCarthy, Pacheco, Gage)

Attempted sexual performance of a child carries a punishment range up to 10 years in jail, while the criminal solicitation charge carries a punishment range up to 20 years.

Including today's indictments, Abbott's Internet Bureau has taken into custody 11 suspected child predators in Central Texas since May. The Hays County Sheriff's Department, San Marcos Police and U.S. Secret Service assisted in the arrests.