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Child Exploitation

HSI arrests Puerto Rico Department of Justice agent for production of child pornography

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, along with officers assigned to the Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force (PRCACTF), arrested a Puerto Rico Department of Justice Bureau of Special Investigations (NIE, in Spanish) agent Thursday for production of child pornography.

Hector Vargas-Reyes, 36, of Arecibo, was arrested at his residence by HSI special agents after an HSI investigation and the results of a PRPD search warrant revealed that he had allegedly used a mobile telephone to attempt to create still images or videos of a 16-year-old minor in sexually explicit poses while in the bathroom of her home.

Vargas-Reyes had his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marcos Lopez Thursday. He was transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo awaiting the outcome of his case. His bail hearing is scheduled for April 23 at 1:30 p.m.

"These allegations are especially disturbing given the position of trust the defendant has occupied," said Angel Melendez, 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."

Vargas-Reyes faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a possible maximum sentence of 30 years if found guilty in a court of law.

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.