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Child Exploitation

Special education teacher sentenced to 36 months on child pornography charges

SAN DIEGO - A 42-year-old special education teacher was sentenced to three years in federal prison for possession of child pornography, the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Edgardo Vilas, who pleaded guilty in February to federal child pornography charges, was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey T. Miller. Vilas will also be subject to five years of supervision following his release from prison, in addition to registering as a sex offender

ICE agents began investigating Vilas after he was identified as a subscriber on a restricted Internet child pornography website that uses PayPal accounts to process subscriber payments for access.

During a search at Vilas's home in January, ICE agents discovered numerous images depicting child sexual exploitation, which he admitted downloading off the Internet. At the time, Vilas was employed as a special education teacher at the Rancho Del Campo education facility in Descanso, an all-boys county detention camp for juvenile offenders, where he had worked for more than a year.

 "This sentence serves as a warning to other subscribers of child pornography who think they can hide behind the Internet," said Miguel Unzueta, special agent in charge for ICE investigations in San Diego. "ICE agents are committed to searching out predators, especially those who use a position of authority to exploit innocent children."

Assistant United States Attorney Alessandra P. Serano prosecuted the case.

Vilas's arrest is part of Operation Predator, an ongoing ICE initiative to identify, investigate, arrest and, in the case of foreign nationals, deport child sex predators. Since Operation Predator was launched in 2003, it has resulted in more than 10,000 arrests nationwide, including more than 2,300 in California.

ICE encourages the reporting of suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline. The number, 1-866-DHS-2ICE, is monitored 24 hours a day. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.