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Child Exploitation

HSI arrests 2 Puerto Rican men for sexually enticing minors

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — As a result of two separate investigations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force (PRCACTF), a Puerto Rico Department of Correction and Rehabilitation correctional officer and a physical education teacher were arrested earlier this week for sexually enticing minors.

Rigel Colon-Cruzado, 54, of Bayamon, who is a physical education teacher in a public housing project in San Juan, was arrested at his place of residence Monday after an HSI investigation revealed that he engaged in sexually explicit conversations with one of his seventh grade students, a 12-year-old female.

In a separate case, HSI special agents arrested Puerto Rico Department of Correction and Rehabilitation correctional officer Angel Marrero-Hernandez, 41, of Hatillo, Friday for coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity. The HSI investigation revealed that Marrero-Hernandez used a smartphone to access applications, including the "kik" messaging application and Facebook, to conduct sexually explicit conversations with a 15-year-old female. During these conversations, Marrero-Hernandez sent nude images of himself and requested nude images of the minor victim in return.

"These cases reveal the disturbing truth that some adults will go to great lengths to sexually exploit minors," said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "In less than five months HSI San Juan has arrested 18 individuals on child exploitation charges which include possession, distribution and production of child pornography as well as the sexual enticement of minors-this is simply alarming. HSI will continue working with our local, state and federal partners to identify and arrest those who exploit our children and ensure they are prosecuted for their heinous crimes."

Both defendants were brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sylvia Carreño-Coll for their initial appearance Monday. They were then transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo to await the outcome of their cases.

If convicted, they face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a possible maximum statutory sentence of life in prison.

The cases are being prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys Julia Meconiates and Luke Cass.

In response to the need for an island-wide approach to fighting the escalation of predatory crimes against children, HSI San Juan partnered with members of local, state and federal law enforcement, as well as local and state government officials and community leaders, to form PRCACTF in June 2011.

Through PRCACTF, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies work together with local and state government agencies to effectively pool their resources to jointly investigate all crimes against children in Puerto Rico. Through the task force, law enforcement officers are encouraged to share evidence, ideas, and investigative and forensic tools to ensure the most successful prosecutions possible. As such, PRCACTF allows law enforcement to speak with one unified voice in defense of the children of Puerto Rico.

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 1-866-347-2423 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.