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Child Exploitation

Puerto Rican child sex predator gets 10 years in prison

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - A 45-year-old man was sentenced Feb. 2 to 10 years in prison and 40 years of supervised release for possession and production of child pornography following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation.

Ross Perez-Cruz, of Fajardo, Puerto Rico, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Aida Delgado.

Perez-Cruz was indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 15, 2008, after an ICE investigation that stemmed from a referral by the Puerto Rico Police Department revealed sexually explicit images of minors in his digital camera.

According to the indictment, Perez-Cruz persuaded, induced, enticed and coerced a 6-year-old female to engage in sexually explicit conduct such as exhibition of the genital and pubic areas for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct.

"ICE will continue to aggressively use its investigative authorities, in conjunction with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, to identify individuals who seek to exploit children in this manner," said Roberto Escobar Vargas, acting special agent in charge for ICE's Office of Investigations in Puerto Rico. "Some predators mistakenly believe the anonymity of cyberspace and new technologies shield them; in fact, the use of computers and the Internet have given ICE new tools in our enforcement efforts to protect children."

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenifer Hernandez.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign-national predators whose crimes make them deportable. Launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested almost 12,000 individuals through Operation Predator.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is 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.