Former Fed Employee Sentenced In Minor Case

BERLIN — A formal federal Department of Justice employee indicted last fall on charges of traveling interstate to have sex with a minor was sentenced last week to seven years in jail.

According to the federal indictment handed down last October in U.S. District Court, on Aug. 15 of last year, a suspect later identified as James Cicala, 55, of Columbia, Md. traveled from his beach house in Fenwick to a location in Berlin to engage in a sexual act with an underage girl. According to a search warrant affidavit attached to the indictment, on July 21, an undercover detective with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, who was investigating child solicitation on the Internet, responded to an ad entitled “Daddy’s Little Girl.”

According to his plea agreement, Cicala, a career tech support employee with the Department of Justice, owned a beach house in Fenwick Island. From March 2015 through at least last July 21, Cicala placed multiple ads in the Maryland, Delaware and District of Columbia editions of an online marketplace seeking females to engage in “daddy-daughter” relationships.

On July 21, 2015, an undercover detective with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office who was investigating child solicitation over the Internet responded to Cicala’s advertisement entitled “Daddy’s Little Girl.” The undercover detective identified himself as “Sydney,” a 15-year-old female, and Cicala identified himself as a male in his late 40s.

Cicala and the undercover detective posing as “Sydney” exchanged messages for several weeks, eventually agreeing to meet to engage in sexually-explicit conduct. During their conversations, Cicala referred to himself as “Daddy” and promised to take “Sydney” on a shopping trip and to bring a pair of earrings she had picked out at Cicala’s request.

According to the plea agreement, the meeting was initially scheduled for last Aug. 1 and Cicala on that date traveled from Fenwick to Berlin to meet Sydney. However, Sydney did not show up, later claiming she was with her aunt and unable to get away. The texting continued and Cicala again made arrangements to meet “Sydney” last Aug. 15 in Berlin.

Many of the conversations Cicala had with the undercover officer occurred using his DOJ-issued phone or work computer, sometimes during business hours. Cicala frequently attempted to engage “Sydney” in sexually-explicit chat, instructing “her” to delete the messages. He also sent the undercover officer nude and partially nude pictures of himself. During the message exchanges, however, the victim refused to send sexually-explicit pictures or engage in sexually-explicit chat.

Last Aug. 15, Cicala traveled from his beach house in Fenwick to Berlin to engage in sexual activity with “Sydney,” whom he believed to be a 15-year-old girl, and he was immediately arrested. On his person was his DOJ-issued cell phone, which he had used for sending and receiving messages from the undercover detective. In his SUV was bedding, pillows, a gift-wrapped box with the promised earrings and cell phone batteries for the phone “Sydney” had told him she used. Last Aug. 17, Cicala was placed on administrative leave by the DOJ.

Cicala was formerly indicted in U.S. District Court last October. In July, Cicala pleaded guilty to one count of traveling interstate to have sex with a minor. Back in U.S. District Court last Thursday, Cicala was sentenced to 84 months, or seven years, in federal prison. He was also placed on supervised release for 15 years.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.