A 5-year-old Pensacola boy who was offered "free to a good home" on a classified-advertising Web site is the victim of a long-running custody dispute, authorities said.

The boy's father, Raymond Lawrence Lee, 50, of El Cajon, Calif., who posted the advertisement with the child's picture on the popular Craigslist site, is being investigated by San Diego law enforcement officers and could face charges, Escambia County Sheriff's Sgt. Ski Gowitzke said.

Lee admitted to investigators that he was giving the child's 38-year-old mother "a bad time," said Gowitzke, who investigates online sexual predators.

The News Journal is not identifying the Pensacola woman to protect her privacy. When contacted Thursday, she declined comment, saying she didn't want to bring further attention to her son.

If Lee had been in Escambia County when he posted the ad, he would have been charged with child abuse, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, Gowitzke said.

"He put a real child on there, and that endangers the child if somebody saw that," he said.

A Pensacola woman alerted local law enforcement last weekend when she saw the ad.

Posing as the mother, Lee wrote: "I've had him now for five years. I've somewhat abused him, but I cannot control myself or him."

The post continued: "I have mental problems. DCF (Florida Department of Children & Families) won't remove him. His father lives in California and has no contact with him. I don't make enough money to support him and myself."

But Lee didn't stop there.

While talking on the phone with Gowitzke on Sunday, Lee posted a second Craigslist ad, posing as his son this time. This time, the posting said, among other things: "My mother is a drunk and she beat me," the investigator said.

The Craigslist webmaster removed the posting at Gowitzke's request.

Under federal law, Craigslist and other similar forums are not liable for what people post. Users generally are allowed to communicate freely although a webmaster has the authority to remove inappropriate postings.

Lee and the child's mother met in April 2000, lived together and had the now-5-year-old son in Pensacola, Escambia County court records show. By December 2002, Lee had moved away and filed for custody of the boy.

At about the same time, Lee filed a domestic violence suit against the mother, but it was dismissed for lack of substantial evidence.

Lee's record includes several charges of harassing phone calls, driving under the influence, check forgery and resisting arrest.

In the ongoing custody battle, each parent has accused the other of being unstable and unfit to be a parent.

When a DCF investigator visited the mother's home in Pensacola, they found no evidence of abuse, Escambia County Sheriff's Sgt. Mike Ward said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.