The HSI investigation, which stemmed from a referral from the Puerto Rico Police Department, revealed that on more than one occasion, Jorge Mercado-Flores, 28, transported a 14-year-old female minor to engage in criminal sexual activity with her. He was arrested by HSI special agents Wednesday and had his initial hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Silvia Carreño Thursday. He was transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo to await the outcome of this case.
"With so many child pornography/exploitation-related arrests, 25 thus far this year, one would think that those involved in these heinous crimes are getting the message that HSI will not cease its efforts until they are brought to justice," said Angel Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "Unfortunately, we continue receiving referrals from citizens and law enforcement agencies. Have no doubt, if you are involved in these horrendous crimes, you will be identified and arrested. It’s just a matter of time."
Mercado-Flores faces a sentence of 10 years in prison if found guilty. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia M. Meconiates.
In response to the need for an island-wide approach to fight 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 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 investigate 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 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.