AUSTIN (KXAN) — A former city of Austin inspector will spend a decade in federal prison for child sex crimes.
KXAN Investigates found he traded illegal images and videos with a former Nitro Swimming employee who made headlines last year after videotaping in the swim business’s female locker room, according to a federal complaint.
KXAN previously reported on the Nitro Swimming maintenance employee, Kenneth Lee Briggs, after he was arrested in February of 2017 and later charged with sexual exploitation of children and distribution of child pornography. During the Briggs investigation, law enforcement discovered he traded child pornography with 37-year-old Daniel Antonio Soza, a now former city of Austin employee.
Soza worked for the city for more than a decade, most recently as a Development Services Department inspector. To be clear, he was not connected to the Nitro Swimming incident.
Soza was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in April on one count of sexual exploitation of children and one count of sexual exploitation of minors, both felonies, according to federal court records.
In an email to his city of Austin superior, Soza gave notice and resigned his position on March 30, 2017, according to his personnel file obtained by KXAN.
A spokesperson for Development Services emailed KXAN, saying, “Per City Personnel policies, a resignation may be accepted effective immediately if in the best interest of the City, provided the employee is paid ten working days notice pay.”
Federal agents had executed a search warrant of Soza’s home just days before, on March 22, 2017, according to a federal affidavit.
Soza’s arrest affidavit and case reveal new details in Briggs’ child pornography case, including that Briggs was employed as a Luling Fire Department firefighter at the time of his arrest.
Luling Fire Chief Tom Harmon told KXAN that Briggs worked as a firefighter and driver-operator from Oct. 1, 2015 to Nov. 10, 2016.
Harmon said investigators served a search warrant on a Luling fire station and looked for camera equipment Briggs may have hidden but nothing was found.
The Luling Fire Department cooperated with authorities and turned over a computer, Go Pro camera and router that Briggs donated to the Luling Volunteer Fire Department. Luling’s Fire Department is split and has both volunteer and paid sections, Harmon said.
Investigators told Harmon they had found some of Briggs’ images showing the fire station in the background, but it was not clear what was in the images or if the station was pictured from the outside or interior, he said.
“We were blindsided,” Harmon said, regarding Briggs. “Sucker-punched.”
During the investigation, detectives found Briggs had, at some point years earlier, placed a video camera inside a Nitro Swimming facility in Cedar Park, when he worked there as a maintenance employee from July 2013 to March 2014.
When KXAN reported the story in August 2017, the company’s owners had told parents the background checks they conducted when he was hired turned up nothing. He was ultimately fired in 2014 for misusing company credit cards.
Briggs had been in the Hays County Jail since March 6, charged with 15 counts of possession with intent to promote child pornography. On Thursday, Aug. 17, he was officially charged with two federal charges — sexual exploitation of children and distribution of child pornography.
The entire investigation started with a tip to the Kyle Police Department from an anonymous “concerned citizen” on Oct. 26, 2016.
On Nov. 2, 2016, Kyle Police executed a search warrant of Briggs’ home in Kyle. They found numerous electronic storage devices, including hard drives, flash drives and laptops. Police found several hard drives hidden in the attic of the garage, according to the federal complaint.
One of the hard drives found in the attic was used and accessed by Soza, according to his arrest affidavit.
“Special Agents discovered photographs within this backup folder relating to Soza’s job with the City of Austin, pictures relating to his work schedule, and images and videos depicting child pornography,” according to the federal filing.
Among roughly 1,546 images and videos of child pornography, investigators found videos of a female between the ages of 2 and 5 engaging in a sex act with an adult woman.
Logs of Soza’s chats on the KIK app revealed he used the username “accuseddrip” and discussed the distribution of child pornography and a desire to molest children. In late January of 2017, Homeland Security investigators matched accuseddrip’s KIK messages and a Dropbox account with child pornography to Soza’s IP address in Buda, according to his arrest affidavit.
Police arrested Briggs on Feb. 18, 2017, in Fort Smith, Arkansas, on a routine traffic stop.
Shortly thereafter, HSI Austin agents executed a search warrant on Soza’s home on March 22, 2017, and seized numerous electronic storage devices. Agents found child pornography on Soza’s desktop computer, including three images depicting infants or toddlers, five images showing sadomasochistic behavior and eight images of bestiality. Soza’s iPhone contained more than 1,400 images and videos of suspected child pornography.
Briggs is set to be released from federal prison in 2034 and Soza in 2035, according to federal prison inmate records.
Rebecca Kennedy, with the city of Austin’s human resources department, told KXAN it conducts background checks on employees when they are in a position that interacts with a vulnerable population, and those are done on an annual basis.
“We try to keep with best practices and really look to our council,” Kennedy said when asked if there’s been a discussion to do background checks even more frequently. “We’re very re-entry friendly. When we look at the best practice, we’re within what is generally within the market norm.”
Kennedy says convictions are flagged in the city’s system and when they’re made aware of charges, an employee will be put on administrative leave to determine the appropriate action.
“We do take it very seriously when we have these types of allegations and move swiftly on them,” she said.