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January 29, 2024Douglas, AZ, United StatesChild Exploitation

Child predator sentenced to 10 years following HSI Douglas, local police investigation

DOUGLAS, Ariz. — A Southern Arizona man was sentenced on Jan. 23 to 10 years in prison and lifetime probation with sex offender registration upon his release for his involvement with child sexual abuse material. This case was investigated by special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Douglas Police Department.

“The defendant’s actions perpetuated the trauma experienced by a victim — every single time abuse material is downloaded or shared it continues the victimization,” said HSI Arizona Special Agent in Charge Fransisco B. Burrola. “This sentence is the result of the collaboration between HSI and our law enforcement partners, which demonstrates our resolute commitment to investigating offenders and holding them accountable.”

HSI began investigating Victor Francisco Mendez, 35, of Douglas, in June 2023, when the Douglas Police Department received information from the Arizona Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. A joint investigation between HSI and the police resulted in the execution of a search warrant that subsequently led to Mendez’s arrest. Throughout the course of the investigation, law enforcement discovered that he was uploading child sexual abuse material to a social media platform.

Authorities booked Mendez into the Cochise County Jail. On Aug. 24, 2023, the Cochise County Superior Court indicted Mendez on five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor; he pleaded guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of attempted sexual exploitation of minor.

The Cochise County Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case.

The Arizona Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force comprises investigators from city, county, state and federal agencies. The Internet Crimes Against Children program was developed in response to the increasing number of children and teenagers using the internet, the proliferation of child sexual abuse material, and predators’ heightened online activity seeking unsupervised contact with potential underage victims. Special emphasis is placed on locating, prosecuting and imprisoning people who intentionally exploit children. DPD and HSI Douglas are members of the AZICAC Task Force.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free tip line at 866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock. From outside the United States and Canada, dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users may call TTY 802-872-6196.

HSI takes a victim-centered approach to child exploitation investigations by working to identify, rescue and stabilize victims. HSI works in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Internet Crimes Against Children partners, and other federal, state and local agencies to help solve cases and rescue sexually exploited children. You can report suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 800-THE-LOST.

HSI is a founding member of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.

One of HSI’s top priorities is to protect the public from crimes of victimization, and HSI’s child exploitation investigations program is a central component of this mission set. Further, HSI is recognized as a global leader in this investigative discipline. The directorate is committed to utilizing its vast authorities, international footprint and strong government and nongovernment partnerships to identify and rescue child victims; identify and apprehend offenders; prevent transnational child sexual abuse; and help make the internet a safer place for children.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.