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Child Exploitation

HSI arrests Aguadilla resident on child pornography charges

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents and officers assigned to the Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force (PRCACTF) arrested an Aguadilla resident for possession of child pornography Thursday.

Carlos Ugarte, 31, was arrested at his place of residence after a search of his home computer revealed hundreds of child pornography images of prepubescent female minors. The investigation that led to his arrest stemmed from a referral from HSI Toronto and the Ontario Provincial Police as part of Operation Northern Lights, a joint investigation that targeted individuals engaged in the illicit trade of sexually explicit images and videos across the border between the United States and Canada. Ugarte became a target when the investigation revealed he was utilizing an email address from Puerto Rico to receive child pornography.

Ugarte had his initial hearing before U.S. Magistrate Marcos Lopez Friday and was ordered temporarily detained in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo to await the outcome of his case. He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison if found guilty.

"The arrest of this man for possession of child pornography further demonstrates that these crimes are transnational in nature," said Angel Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "HSI will continue its efforts to identify, arrest and prosecute those involved in these heinous crimes that transcend borders. Child predators should take note that HSI has the tools and personnel around the globe to identify and arrest you."

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Luke V. Cass.

In response to the need for an island-wide approach to fight 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.

PRCACTF enables local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to effectively pool their resources to investigate all crimes against children in Puerto Rico. Law enforcement officers are encouraged to share evidence, ideas and investigative and forensic tools to ensure the most successful prosecutions possible. As such, the task force 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.