CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, VA (The Richmond Times-Dispatch) – An illegal immigrant from Mexico who left the U.S. after being accused of molesting two young Chesterfield County girls — but then returned two years later after paying $8,000 to be smuggled back across the border — was sentenced Monday to serve 14 years in prison for the 2007-2008 sexual assaults of the victims, now young women.
Daniel Soriano Avila, 33, sexually molested two girls, ages 9 and 11, after he became friends with their older brother and the Hispanic family took him into their Chesterfield home to live while he worked construction in the Richmond area, said Chesterfield prosecutor B.J. McGee.
But Avila betrayed the family’s trust and took indecent liberties with the two girls and sexually battered them inside the family’s home in 2007 and 2008.
Avila denied abusing the girls and continued to maintain his innocence at Monday’s sentencing hearing in Chesterfield Circuit Court. But McGee said the victims’ older sister called the defendant at some point after the abuse occurred and he admitted to inappropriately touching the younger girls because he was thinking of the older sister, who had spurned his advances.
“He tried to have an age appropriate relationship with (the) older sister,” McGee said.
He fled the Richmond area after Chesterfield police became involved and at one point returned to his native Mexico. Avila claimed he left to attend a coming of age party for his niece’s 16th birthday in Mexico, but authorities suspect he fled because of the felony warrants they obtained against him in 2008.
After a two-year stay in Mexico, Avila paid $8,000 to return to the U.S., McGee said, and he began working and living in the Tidewater area, where he met a woman in 2010. She essentially became his common-law wife a year later and they had a child together — a son — in April 2013, the woman testified Monday.
In November 2015, the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force based in Richmond developed information that Avila might be living at an address in Hampton, and they arrested him after locating him there. Avila had been on Chesterfield police’s most wanted list of criminal fugitives since 2008.
Defense attorney Mary Adams told the court that Avila voluntarily came back to the U.S. knowing there were felony warrants for his arrest and that he was not hiding from police. Adams said Avila continued to live and work in Virginia using his real name as he supported his new family and built a life here.
Avila claimed the girls conspired against him and one of two acted like she was in love with him and had kissed him on one occasion.
Avila’s girlfriend, who is the mother of his child, testified that he was a good father and provider, adding, “we never hide from the police.” The woman’s mother and the defendant’s nephew described Avila in similar terms, testifying he was a “very good father” and hard worker who didn’t abuse alcohol or his family.
But the 11-year-old victim, now 20, testified Monday that she suffers from sexual, physical and emotional trauma as a result of the abuse she endured.
McGee said Avila offered to take a polygraph, or lie detector, test after his arrest, and he was found to be “deceptive” during the examination.
The abuse was uncovered after the older of the two victims told an elementary school counselor in October 2008 that something had happened to her in June of that year, McGee said.
“He has affected two young ladies dramatically for the rest of their lives,” McGee told the court.
Chesterfield Circuit Judge Lynn Brice told Avila she appreciated his efforts to support his family in recent years, but that did not absolve him of the abuse the victims suffered earlier at his hands.
“You were treated like an extended family member …. and you took advantage (of the family’s) generosity,” the judge said.
Brice then sentenced Avila to 55 years in prison with all but 14 years suspended on two counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count each of objection sexual penetration and taking indecent liberties with a minor. Avila was found guilty of the offenses during a bench trial in November.
Recommended state sentencing guidelines called for Avila to receive an active prison term of 8 years and 1 month on the low end, and 17 years and 5 months on the high end. U.S. immigration authorities have placed a detainer on Avila and he will be deported back to Mexico when he completes his sentence.