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Child Exploitation
03/12/2014

HSI arrests Mayaguez businessman on child sexual exploitation charges

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A Mayaguez businessman was arrested Wednesday at his residence for sex trafficking of children and transporting a 13-year-old girl with the intent to engage in criminal sexual conduct. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the assistance of Puerto Rico Police Department's (PRPD) Sex Crime Division in Mayaguez.

HSI special agents arrested Wilfredo Cubero-Soto, 63, aka Joe Cubero-Soto, after an investigation stemming from a Feb. 27 referral from PRPD's Sex Crimes Division in Mayaguez. The investigation revealed Cubero-Soto made arrangements using his cellular telephone to pick up a minor, identified as Jane Doe, from an area near her middle school to take her to a motel in Cabo Rojo for the purpose of engaging in a commercial sex act.

"HSI aggressively uses its investigative authorities to protect our communities from those who seek to sexually exploit children for their perverse gratification," said Angel M. Melendez, special agent of HSI San Juan. "We have an obligation to protect those most vulnerable in our society who cannot protect themselves. HSI special agents, working hand-in-hand with our law enforcement partners, will continue to use our ample law enforcement authorities to seek out and arrest child predators, and stop them from further victimizing children."

According to the criminal complaint, on March 10 HSI special agents interviewed Jane Doe regarding allegations of sexual abuse committed by Cubero-Soto. The charging document alleges Jane Doe's 15-year-old friend told her in December 2013 that she had a male friend, referring to Cubero-Soto, who asked her to recruit underage girls to engage in sexual acts with him and that he would pay Jane Doe money in exchange for sex.

The criminal complaint further alleges that on or about Dec. 10, 2013, Cubero-Soto contacted Jane Doe's friend during her lunch break at school and told her that he would pick them up at a location near their middle school. According to Jane Doe, Cubero-Soto did in fact pick them up and transport them to what she described as an apartment located inside a warehouse called "Almacen Navideño" in Mayaguez. Upon arrival, Jane Doe entered the apartment with Cubero-Soto and her friend stayed in the vehicle. It is alleged that Cubero-Soto engaged Jane Doe in criminal sexual conduct for which he paid her $40.00. He also paid Jane Doe's friend and undisclosed sum of money.

The criminal complaint also alleges Cubero-Soto transported both minors to a local motel Feb. 11 in Cabo Rojo to engage them in criminal sexual conduct, for which he again paid $40.00 to Jane Doe and an undisclosed amount of money to her friend.

Cubero-Soto had his initial hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce McGiverin on Wednesday. He was transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo awaiting the outcome of his case.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshal Morgan.

In response to the need for an island-wide approach to fighting the escalation of predatory crimes against children, HSI San Juan partnered with members of local, state and federal law enforcement, as well as local and state government officials and community leaders, to form the Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force (PRCACTF) in June 2011.

Through PRCACTF, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies work together with local and state government agencies to effectively pool their resources to jointly investigate all crimes against children in Puerto Rico. Through the task force, law enforcement officers are encouraged to share evidence, ideas, and investigative and forensic tools to ensure the most successful prosecutions possible. As such, PRCACTF allows law enforcement to speak with one unified voice in defense of the children of Puerto Rico.

The investigation is part of HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE 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-THE-LOST.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

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.