Former Pecos coach at center of child rape lawsuit indicted on federal charges

Former Pecos coach at center of child rape lawsuit indicted on federal charges

From the Las Vegas Optic

A former Pecos High School boys basketball assistant coach has been indicted by a federal grand jury on five counts of using interstate commerce to entice or coerce minor girls into sexual activity.

Joshua G. Rico, 25, was arrested Friday and appeared in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque Monday morning where he was ordered held until an arraignment hearing. That hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

The federal indictment accuses Rico of using the internet to force four girls under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity. The charges detail five instances that took place between May 2016 and January 2020. Each charge carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, up to a maximum of life in prison. The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of three iPhones suspected of being used by Rico.

Rico was named in a recent lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court that accuses the Pecos Independent School District of having a “history of indifference” toward child rape and sexual abuse.

The suit alleges that Rico had sent a girl, identified only as Jane Doe, multiple Snapchat invitations using a variety of aliases, and that behind those pseudonyms, Rico coaxed the girl into sending him sexually explicit photos and videos that he later used to blackmail her with.

In February 2020, Rico was charged with 10 felony counts in San Miguel Magistrate Court, including three counts of criminal sexual penetration and a count of criminal sexual communication with a child.

Those charges were dismissed in October, without prejudice, meaning they can be refiled. Fourth Judicial District Attorney Tom Clayton told the Optic his office plans to refile the charges, and that they were dropped only because of scheduling complications brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and because his office was awaiting more forensic evidence.

The federal charges could further delay the refiling of the state charges, but Clayton said his office will continue to review the case and, if needed, work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to allow the federal case to proceed first.

“We are reviewing (the case) as we speak. I want to make sure we have all the discovery — there’s a lot of forensics, the social media stuff — I want to make sure that we have that, so we can review and refile,” Clayton said. “But the intent is to refile.”

The State of New Mexico’s case against Rico was filed in San Miguel Magistrate Court on Feb. 14, 2020. Rico was arrested that day, accused of using two Snapchat usernames to chat with Jane Doe. From one account — which the girl believed was really a boy her age — Rico allegedly talked the girl into sending nude photos of herself, according to an affidavit filed in Magistrate Court.

Police allege Rico used a second account to blackmail the girl, telling her that he had naked photos of her, and that if she didn’t send him more, he would share the ones he had on the internet.

Police allege Rico’s demands made under the second account escalated from first demanding photos of her wearing underwear, to photos of her naked, to eventually demanding videos of her masturbating, often when using objects, according to the affidavit. Rico also allegedly sent the girl several unsolicited photos of his penis from both accounts.

The girl realized Rico was behind both accounts when she discovered that the photos of genitalia from both accounts seemed to be taken by the same person, in the same room, according to the affidavit. When she confronted him about it, Rico gave her three options: Have her photos and videos posted to the internet; keep sending him photos and videos; or perform oral sex on him. Instead, the girl reported Rico — and his aliases — to a school counselor.

New Mexico State Police investigators searched Rico’s cellphone and located “several hundred videos and photos” which made it “apparent that Rico had been victimizing several other minor females via Snapchat in the same manner,” according to the affidavit. Investigators contacted at least two other girls. Both reported having similar encounters on Snapchat with Rico.

While charges in both the state case and federal case relate to much of the same activity, the charges are different and carry separate potential penalties. Clayton said that if convicted on the federal charges, Rico would face a much longer sentence, and noted that his time would be served in a federal prison instead of a state facility.

Rico remained in federal custody as of this writing as he awaits a bond hearing Wednesday. A court motion filed in U.S. District Court on Monday indicated that Rico planned to retain an attorney, but at the time of this writing, it was not clear if one had been retained.