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Child Exploitation

HSI arrests Penuelas resident arrested on child sexual exploitation charges

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A Peñuelas resident was arrested Wednesday for inducing, enticing and coercing a minor with the intent of engaging in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), working jointly with the Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force (PRCACTF) conducted the investigation that led to the arrest.

HSI special agents arrested Rafael Cordero, 32, after they received information from the Puerto Rico Police Department’s (PRDP) Sex Crimes Division in Ponce regarding a complaint made by the mother of a 14-year-old girl concerning sexually explicit images in the minor’s Facebook account, as well as messages from Cordero, requesting the photographs.

"HSI is a worldwide leader in the fight against the sexual exploitation of children," said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "Prior to the creation of the agency in 2003, special agents investigated the disbursement of illegal child pornography that was often sent by mail or purchased overseas. With the advent of the Internet, the sharing and trading of child pornography now primarily occurs online and we have the means to detect and recover illicit conversations with minors as well as sexually explicit images. Have no doubt, HSI special agents will be knocking at your door should you engage in this type of behavior."

According to the criminal complaint, HSI special agents interviewed both the mother and victim, and obtained the telephone for forensic analysis which yielded sexually explicit text conversations between the victim and Cordero as well as pictures depicting child pornography.

Cordero had his initial hearing before U.S. Magistrate Camille Velez Rive Thursday. 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 Elba Gorbea.

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.