Adolfo Payan Chavez, 39, of San Diego, was taken into custody Sept. 18 at the San Ysidro border crossing after federal agents discovered images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct on his laptop. At the time of his arrest, Chavez worked at Whittier Elementary School's Learning Center, providing one-on-one instruction to students with special needs.
On Nov. 17, Chavez pleaded guilty to one count of transporting images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, which carries a maximum 20-year sentence and a potential $250,000 fine. Chavez remains in federal custody without bail pending his sentencing hearing scheduled for March 5, 2012.
According to ICE HSI investigators, prior to his arrest, Chavez had worked at the Learning Center for approximately 10 years. Most of the students he assisted were elementary-school age. In addition to one-on-one instruction, Chavez supervised recess and lunch periods and served as a bus monitor accompanying some children to and from school.
According to the complaint, the images found on the defendant's computer included at least two sexually explicit images of nude females who appear to be under 8 years old. The complaint further alleges Chavez is one of several suspects identified in a national online child pornography trading network currently under investigation by ICE HSI.
ICE HSI is asking anyone who may have had previous contact with Chavez, or has information that may be relevant to the investigation, to contact the case agent at (619) 744-4625. All information left on the voice message system is confidential.
"This case is particularly disturbing because Chavez worked directly with vulnerable children on a daily basis," said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for ICE HSI in San Diego. "We are appealing to the public to provide any information that might help with our ongoing investigation in this case. Tragically, every time an image of child pornography is viewed, an innocent child is exploited. HSI will continue to dedicate its resources to investigate those individuals who commit this type of crime to ensure they are brought to justice."
Unrelated to this investigation, ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or 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 and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.