This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Port Arthur and Port Neches police departments.
Hector Capetillo Rodriguez, 39, from Edinburg, Texas, pleaded guilty Oct. 31, 2012 to coercing or enticing a child. He was sentenced March 28 to 120 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Ron Clark.
According to court information, on May 30, 2012, Rodriguez approached a child inside a Port Arthur, Texas, Wal-Mart store and requested assistance locating a particular toy. During the conversation, Rodriguez asked for the child's cell phone number, which the child gave him.
Later that evening, Rodriguez began sending the child text messages thanking the child for assisting him.
An adult family member saw the text messages and contacted police, who then assumed the child's identity and continued the text conversation with Rodriguez. Rodriguez' text messages became sexual and a meeting was arranged between Rodriguez and the police officer posing as the child. Rodriguez arrived at Port Neches Park for what he believed would be a sexual encounter with the child. Instead, he was arrested by police.
"All children have an absolute right to grow up free from the fear of coercion, sexual abuse and exploitation – especially from those they trust" said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. "Sadly, today's technology in the hands of a predator with access to children has put our children at greater risk than ever before. Despite the odds, HSI special agents and our support staff continue to work tirelessly to protect our kids and bring their abusers to justice."
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher T. Tortorice, Eastern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.