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Child Exploitation

HSI arrests physical education teacher on child exploitation charges

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A 27-year-old physical education teacher of a local school in Toa Baja was arrested Friday for allegedly enticing, coercing and inducing one of his students, a 15-year-old female minor, into sexually criminal conduct. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), working jointly with Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force, conducted the investigation that led to the arrest of the school teacher.

HSI special agents arrested Melvin Rivera-Gonzalez, of Bayamon, after they received information from school officials indicating that Rivera-Gonzalez used his Kik account to sexually entice one of his students. Kik is a smartphone application that allows users to communicate by video and instant message over the Internet. According to the charging document, Rivera-Gonzalez engaged in sexually explicit conversations with an individual whom he thought was the minor instead of an HSI special agent acting in an undercover capacity. He was arrested in Toa Baja after he persuaded an individual whom he thought was the minor to meet him to engage in sexually illicit conduct.

"This case is particularly troubling because of the defendant's position of trust with young people, but it underscores HSI’s commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to search out predators who sexually exploit innocent children," said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "Some predators mistakenly believe the anonymity of cyberspace shields them from scrutiny; in fact, their use of computers and the Internet have given us new tools in our enforcement efforts to protect children."

Rivera-Gonzalez had his initial hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce McGiverin who ordered his transfer to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo pending the outcome of his case.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elba Gorbea.

In response to the need for an island-wide approach to fight 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 the Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force in June 2011.

Through the task force, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies work together with local and state government agencies to effectively pool their resources to investigate all crimes against children in Puerto Rico. Law enforcement officers 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 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 10,000 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 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.

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. 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 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.