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Child Exploitation
12/01/2009

Alabama man indicted in sex trafficking case

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A 30-year-old man of Florence, Ala., was indicted on Dec. 1 on sex trafficking charges following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation.

The four-count indictment of Manuel Enrique Zelaya-Rodriguez, aka Mecanico, also charges him with coercing a minor to engage in prostitution and harboring an illegal alien.

According to the indictment, Zelaya-Rodriguez harbored a minor girl in Lauderdale County and caused her to engage in a commercial sex act between about Aug. 25 and Sept. 8.

"This case is a perfect example of the outstanding cooperation between ICE and our sister law enforcement agencies. Because of positive interagency cooperation, human trafficking and smuggling criminal organizations are discovering how difficult it is for them to hide their illegal activities from authorities," said Michael A. Holt, special agent-in-charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in New Orleans. "We are dedicated to identifying and dismantling these types of illicit operations wherever and whenever we find them."

"Human trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor is a growing problem in this district and a grave concern of the Department of Justice. The prosecution of these cases is a priority for this office, and our goal is to focus prosecutions against those who profit most from this crime," said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.

If convicted on all counts, the minimum sentence of imprisonment must be 10 years, the maximum could be life.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Stuart Burrell is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign-national predators whose crimes make them deportable. Launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested almost 12,000 individuals through Operation Predator.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com/.