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Child Exploitation

Director of Fresno-area youth club indicted for enticement of a minor

FRESNO, Calif. – The head of the Firebaugh Boys and Girls Club was indicted Thursday on federal child sexual exploitation charges, following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office and the Firebaugh Police Department.

Juan Martin Torres, 25, is accused of enticing a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity. The case is being prosecuted by Michael G. Tierney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.

According to court documents, on Oct. 3 a 14-year-old victim reported to the police that Torres was harassing him through an Internet messaging service. The victim had been working community service hours at the Boys and Girls Club under Torres’ supervision. Torres began the chats in April. Torres, who had been employed at the club for approximately seven years, allegedly offered to give the victim credit for community service in exchange for engaging in sexual acts.

"Those who exploit their access to children to gratify their own perverse sexual desires are on notice that there will be serious consequences for those actions," said Mike Prado, resident agent in charge for HSI Fresno. "When individuals who are entrusted to serve as role models for our children violate that trust, there will be zero tolerance. HSI will continue to work closely with its local law enforcement partners to target those involved in the sexual exploitation of children to ensure they are held accountable for their crimes."

Torres made his initial court appearance on the charges Oct. 11 and was released on bond. His arraignment is set for Oct. 25. If convicted, Torres faces a minimum jail term of 10 years and a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison, along with a $250,000 fine.

The charges stem from Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers, and Project Safe Childhood, a Department of Justice effort launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc. Click on the "resources" tab for information about Internet safety.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.

HSI is a founding member and current chair 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.