This investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Port Arthur Police Department, and the Port Neches Police Department.
Hector Capetillo Rodriguez, 39, of Edinburg, Texas, pleaded guilty Oct. 31 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith F. Giblin.
According to court records, on May 30, Rodriguez approached a child inside a Port Arthur, Texas, Wal-Mart store to help find a particular toy. During the conversation, Rodriguez asked for the child's cellular phone number, which the child gave him. Later that evening, Rodriguez began sending the child text messages thanking the child for assisting him. An adult family member saw the text messages and contacted police, who assumed the child's identity, and continued the text conversation with Rodriguez.
The defendant's text messages became sexual, and a meeting was arranged between Rodriguez and the police posing as the child. Rodriguez arrived at Port Neches Park for what he believed to be a sexual encounter with the child and was arrested by police.
This investigation was part of 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. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE 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, at 1-800-843-5678.
Rodriguez faces a minimum of 10 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not been set.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher T. Tortorice, Eastern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.