A Tucumcari man is in federal custody awaiting trial after pleading not guilty to five counts of child pornography.
Lawrence Lucero, 65, of Tucumcari was arraigned July 19 by a United States Magistrate Judge charged with three counts of receipt of a visual depiction of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, and two counts of possession of matter containing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said Lucero was charged based on an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General's Department of Veterans Affairs.
According to the indictment, Lucero received and possessed child pornography between March 26, 2012 and May 2, 2012 in Rio Arriba County. At the time of the offenses alleged in the indictment, Lucero was employed as a social worker by a company that provided healthcare staff for the Veterans Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Las Vegas, N.M., and Espanola, pursuant to a contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charlyn E. Rees.
Rees said the investigation was conducted by a state task force comprised of state and federal agencies, which is dedicated to the investigation of child exploitation. She declined to comment on where Lucero is being held, or where evidence against him was discovered.
When asked why the case was being tried on the federal level, Rees said she and other prosecutors considered many factors, including venue and the threat level of the defendant.
Rees declined to comment when asked if any evidence was found on Lucero's work computer or at his base of operations as a contracted social worker for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
If convicted, Lucero faces a maximum sentence of up to 80 years — between five and 20 years for each of the three receipt charges, and up to 10 years each for both possession charges. Upon release, he would be required to register as a sex offender and face supervised release for the remainder of his life.
Rees was brought in as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.