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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Tribune News Service) — A former U.S. Navy pilot who admitted to coercing a minor to engage in illicit sexual conduct and to distributing, receiving and possessing child pornography, all while actively serving in the U.S. Navy and following his retirement from active service, was sentenced Friday to life in federal prison.

Acting United States Attorney Richard B. Myrus announced the sentence Friday.

Ronald W. Zenga, 45, of Middletown pleaded guilty Nov. 19, 2020, to coercion of a minor, distribution of child pornography, receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography.

He was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., to life in federal prison and lifetime federal supervised release, and pay restitution to the victim in the amount of $500,000.

“Cases involving the coercion and sexual exploitation of children are among the most heart-wrenching and disturbing cases that federal prosecutors confront,” Myrus said in a prepared statement. “This case is particularly troubling because, as the prosecutor in this case stated in a court filing, ‘(Zenga) abused the most sacred trust a human being can be given, responsibility for the health and well-being of another living soul.’

“Thanks to the work of our dedicated law enforcement partners both here and abroad, this defendant has been held to account for his vile crimes. We hope that today’s result will provide some relief to the victim in knowing that the man who preyed upon her will be safely locked away.”

“Ronald Zenga committed heinous crimes and had the audacity to brag about his exploits online — hubris which ultimately led to his arrest. The abuse and exploitation of children is deeply cruel, violating the trust and safety of victims and generating trauma that may never fully heal. We hope that today’s sentence provides a measure of justice to those he harmed,” said Matthew Millhollin, special agent in charge for the Homeland Security Investigations’ Boston Field Office.

According to court documents and information provided to the court, in September 2018, Homeland Security Investigations agents in Providence received information from the Bedfordshire Police Department in the United Kingdom that an individual, later identified as Zenga, was communicating with a BPD agent through a Russian file sharing website.

The communications graphically described ongoing sexual encounters with a young minor child. Zenga described several years of sexual encounters with a child, dating back to the child’s prepubescent years.

On Oct. 17, 2018, HSI agents and members of the Rhode Island State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force arrested Zenga and executed a court-authorized search of his Middletown residence. Forensic previews of Zenga’s electronic devices resulted in the discovery of emails and files of child pornography shared, received, and possessed by Zenga.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. McAdams.

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(Carlos Bongioanni/Stars and Stripes)

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