NEW HAVEN — A former school bus driver was sentenced in federal court on Wednesday to 19 years in prison for enticing sex from a 13-year-old girl who was a passenger on his Wallingford route and then trying to have her murdered.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer sentenced Jose Manuel Santos, 38, of Bridgeport to an additional seven years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney John H. Dunham said in a statement.
A bus or van driver with Curtin Livery, whose route included a Wallingford middle school, Santos was charged with enticing a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity, and for obstructing justice by attempting to have the victim murdered at the culmination of an investigation that began in October 2018.
Investigators found more than 200 text messages or calls between Santos and the girl on her cellphone, including a sexually explicit photo of Santos that he sent her, and several requests from Santos for a sexually explicit photo of the girl, prosecutors have said.
In the fall of 2019, while Santos was in federal custody and awaiting trial, Santos engaged an individual and, subsequently, an undercover law enforcement officer, to have the girl murdered to prevent her from testifying against him, prosecutors said.
In a phone call on Dec. 2, 2019, the undercover officer told Santos that the victim had been murdered. Immediately after being told, Santos asked the undercover officer to begin collecting background information on an Assistant U.S. Attorney who was prosecuting Santos’ case, prosecutors said.
Santos’ criminal history includes convictions for reckless endangerment, assault and larceny. In 2003, he was convicted of running from police, stealing a police cruiser, striking the officer with a car door when the officer attempted to stop him and dragging the officer as Santos drove off in the stolen cruiser, prosecutors said.
Santos has been in jail since his arrest on Nov. 2, 2018. Santos pleaded guilty to a reduced charge, enticing a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity, on Feb. 20.
He faced a minimum of 10 years imprisonment for the charges against him.
This prosecution is part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood Initiative, which is aimed at protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation.