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Child Exploitation

4 men plead guilty to kidnapping charges, 2 others await trial in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Four of the six men accused of the December 2009 kidnapping of a 13-year-old girl in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to more than 48 years in prison on July 29 following a joint U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) investigation.

Ernesto Sanchez, 30, and Jean Aleman, 20, were both sentenced to 12 years in prison followed by a period of 10 years in probation. Joan Martinez, 21, and Kevin Bonilla, 24, were sentenced to 14 and 10 years in prison, respectively, followed by 10-years probation.

The other two defendants in the kidnapping case, Hilario Morel, 19, and Ismael Reyes, 24, are awaiting trial.

“ICE is committed to the vigilant pursuit and ultimate prosecution of individuals involved in criminal activity, especially that in which the most vulnerable segment of our society, our children, are placed in danger,” said Roberto Escobar Vargas, ICE special agent in charge of the Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Puerto Rico. “We are determined to make our communities safer for everyone. We will continue to partner with other law enforcement agencies to realize this goal.”

On Dec. 3, 2009, ICE received a request for assistance from PRPD stating that they received information that a female minor had been kidnapped and that the alleged kidnapper had asked for $300,000 in ransom from the victim's mother.

On Dec. 4, ICE special agents and PRPD officers identified a residence in Barrio Buena Vista, Parcelas Nuevas de Sabana, Bayamon, where they observed a young girl who matched the description of the victim. The minor was blindfolded with duct tape and accompanied by a male later identified as Joan Martinez, a national of the Dominican Republic.

On Dec. 5, a second man, Ismael Reyes, was arrested in connection with the kidnapping followed by Kevin Bonilla, who was arrested by ICE special agents on Dec. 10. On Dec. 11, Hilario Morel was arrested by ICE special agents and on Dec. 14, Ernesto Sanchez and Jean Aleman were arrested.

During this investigation, ICE agents seized three vehicles and a pistol loaded with blank ammunition.