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Child Exploitation

HSI arrests Arroyo, Mayaguez residents on child exploitation charges

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, working jointly with officers of the Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force (PRCACTF), arrested two individuals on child exploitation charges Tuesday in the municipalities of Arroyo and Mayaguez.

On July 16, HSI received information from Puerto Rico Police Department’s (PRPD) regarding a complaint filed against Victor Vega-Rodriguez, 21, of Arroyo, alleging that he used his Facebook account to entice, coerce and induce two female minors to engage in sexually explicit conduct and that he allegedly transported them to his home to engage in criminal sexual acts. The information provided by PRPD led to an HSI investigation that resulted in the arrest of Vega-Rodriguez.

"The sexual exploitation of children is perhaps one of the most heinous crimes there is and HSI will continue to fight it," said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "With the alarming increase of these cases on the island, HSI is committed to continue working with our PRCACTF partners to bring those who exploit our children to justice."

In a separate case, HSI agents arrested Kermeth Cuebas-Crespo, 21, of Mayaguez for possession of child pornography. The HSI investigation that led to Cuebas-Crespo’s arrest stemmed from a referral from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Vega-Rodriguez faces a sentence of 15 years to life in prison while Cuebas-Crespo faces a sentence of five years in prison. Assistant U.S. Attorney Luke Cass is prosecuting the cases.

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.