Army recruiter charged with soliciting girl, exchanging graphic images on Snapchat

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Last fall, a 36-year-old Army recruiter who was working at a South Florida high school campus began hitting on a female student less than half his age, federal investigators say.

Danilo Fernandez II, a staff sergeant, established a relationship with the 17-year-old girl — not only at her Palm Beach County high school, but also by exchanging smart-phone text and Snapchat messages that included graphic images of the teen masterbating, according to the FBI.

The girl also told investigators that Fernandez “digitally penetrated her vagina against her wishes” on a trip to an Army recruiting office after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, an FBI criminal complaint says.

Fernandez was arrested this week on charges of attempting to produce child pornography, receiving child pornography and enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity. He has a bond hearing on Monday and his arraignment on May 14 in federal court in West Palm Beach.

His defense attorney, David Olson, could not be immediately reached for comment by phone or email.

The FBI complaint portrays Fernandez, who resides in Palm Beach Gardens, as an Army recruiter who used his position and access to the Dwyer High School campus in an effort to have actual and virtual sex with the teen-age girl.

An affidavit filed with the FBI complaint provides a transcript of some Snapchat messages between the Army recruiter, whose user name was “Dan” and “stormsoldiere11,” and the high school student.

“This is SSG Fernandez the Army guy,” the recruiter messaged the teen last October. “How old are you and where were you born?”

The girl said she was 17 and provided her date of birth.

“You have snap?” Fernandez asked.

“I do,” she responded, “but would anything be held against me in terms of the recruitment and seeing if I qualify?”

“You pretty much qualify,” he told her.

At one point, Fernandez ominously told the girl: “Okay No one thing can I trust you with this cause no one has or knows about this and I am not trying to go to jail here.”

In November, the girl started sending Fernandez a series of video images of herself masturbating, according to the FBI affidavit. The Army recruiter told her that he wanted to have sex with her.

“I want to do you baby,” Fernandez wrote in a Snapchat message in late November.

Soon after, Fernandez drove the girl to an Army recruitment center in Stuart and on the return trip to Palm Beach Gardens, “he digitally penetrated her vagina against her will,” the FBI affidavit said. She also told investigators that she had kissed Fernandez once before this incident.

The girl eventually contacted local police in April, which led to an FBI investigation. Although Snapchat messages are designed to disappear several seconds after they are sent, the FBI and federal prosecutors used subpoenas to obtain those records to make the cyber case against Fernandez.

“During the course of more than five months and hundreds of Snapchat messages, it was clear from the messages that other photos and videos had been produced by [the girl] at Fernandez’s request and sent (or ‘snapped’) to Fernandez,” the affidavit said.

Fernandez was arrested on Monday. If convicted of any of the child porn and enticement charges, he faces up to life in prison.


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