A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agent was recognized in Washington, D.C., May 8, by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) for his work combating child sexual exploitation and rescuing child victims in Mexico.
Special Agent Jason Barry, assigned to HSI Mexico City, received one of five awards.
"It’s a complete honor to be standing here among the other recipients," Barry said. "It’s overwhelming."
The award recognized his efforts working with the Mexican Federal Police, Mexican attorney general’s office and local investigators to build a multi-agency task force dedicated to investigating cases of child sexual exploitation in Mexico.
Barry carefully selected members of the team and ensured they received the resources and training to successfully investigate these cases.
"We evaluated what the NCMEC CyberTipline had for investigative leads for Mexico," Barry explained. "The tipline was averaging about 800 to 1,000 tips a month. A team at the Mexican Federal Police would become responsible for reviewing the tips. Our office would then determine which ones were actionable, and we would prioritize based on the victims."
Barry approached NCMEC and volunteered to be the point of contact for all CyberTipline reports that indicated a suspect or child victim was located in Mexico. His team reviewed several thousand CyberTipline reports within a 10-month timeframe. This resulted in numerous arrests of suspected possessors, traders and producers of child pornography.
"The team has grown a lot since we started several years ago," Barry said. Emphasizing that the investigation took three years, and he said that if it had not been for the efforts of HSI Boston, the case likely would taken much longer.
One of the most egregious cases of child exploitation involved the arrest of 19-year-old Christian Jonas Castillo and the rescue of 10 child victims he abused. Castillo admitted to sexually molesting and producing child pornography of eight child victims, ranging in age from 3 to 14. Two additional victims were later identified. Castillo was indicted on charges of possessing, transmitting and producing child pornography and on charges of organized crime. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 45 years in prison.
Presenters at the ceremony included NCMEC CEO John Ryan, actor Tim Kang, of the CBS TV drama "The Mentalist," and members of Congress. NCMEC recognized law enforcement professionals from five states, Mexico City and the District of Columbia.
"NCMEC has been essential in this building process, with the new team," Barry said. "NCMEC has been a crucial partner in these investigations."