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April 30, 2018San Juan, PR, United StatesChild Exploitation

Former Puerto Rico DOE teacher found guilty of child exploitation

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico –  Following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, a former Puerto Rico Department of Education (DOE) teacher was found guilty Friday of one count of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. Senior District Court Judge Daniel R. Domínguez presided over the trial.   

According to the evidence presented at trial, Yaira Cotto-Flores, 28, of San Lorenzo, transported one of her English students March 1, 2016, to a local motel with the intent to engage in criminal sexual conduct. According to court records, the former teacher and the 14-year old student met at the beginning of the school year and the defendant gave the victim various gifts including an acne treatment kit, a neckband and a wristwatch.

“These allegations are especially disturbing given the position of trust the defendant has occupied,” said Orlando Baez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “Identifying people who violate their positions of public trust by contributing to the exploitation of children is a top priority for HSI. Anyone who targets children for sexual exploitation should also consider themselves a target by HSI and by our law enforcement partners regardless of who they are. We have an obligation to protect those most vulnerable in our society who cannot protect themselves.”

“The jury found Ms. Cotto-Flores guilty of robbing a child’s innocence,” said United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. “We entrust teachers to serve as role models for our children and safeguard their welfare. As this conviction makes clear, when that trust is violated, there will be severe consequences.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elba Gorbea. The defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. The sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 27 at 10:00am.

This investigation was conducted under HSI’s Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 16,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2016, more than 2,600 child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 800 victims identified or rescued.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.

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-THE-LOST.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI’s Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page. 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.

Updated: 11/19/2020