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Child Exploitation

HSI arrests Puerto Rico man on child exploitation, human trafficking charges

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A 64-year-old man was arrested Wednesday in Caguas for allegedly transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual conduct and human trafficking. The arrest follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance by the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD).

HSI special agents arrested Manual A. Natal-Bracetti, of San Lorenzo, after an HSI investigation that stemmed from a March 24 referral from PRPD revealed that he transported, on several occasions, a 12-year-old girl, identified as Jane Doe, in order to engage her in sexually explicit conduct.

"Predators who victimize innocent children for selfish gratification must know that we will not rest until they are brought to justice, regardless of who they are," said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "Words cannot describe the harm that these crimes inflict on children. Through partnerships with state, local and other federal law enforcement agencies, HSI will continue to vigorously investigate child exploitation cases like this one."

According to the criminal complaint, Natal-Bracetti picked up Jane Doe at her residence in Cidra, paid her between $20 and $80, and transported her to his farm located near San Lorenzo, Yabucoa and Patillas, with the intent to engage the minor in criminal sexual conduct.

The criminal complaint also alleges that Natal-Bracetti directed Jane Doe, in the event she became pregnant, to tell everyone that the father of the baby was somebody else. The charging document further alleges that Jane Doe became pregnant when she was 12 years old and again a year later. Natal-Bracetti allegedly told her to hide her abdominal area with loose-fitting clothes to avoid people noticing her pregnancy. Natal-Bracetti also allegedly told her to drink "hot malts" to induce a miscarriage.

The criminal complaint alleges that after Jane Doe's second pregnancy, her mother took her to the police in order to determine the identity of the father. On Sept. 11, 2011, PRPD agents interviewed Jane Doe where she revealed that Natal-Bracetti was the father of her two children. A DNA test later confirmed him as the biological father.

Natal-Bracetti had his initial hearing Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sylvia Carreño-Coll and was ordered held at the Metropolitan Detention Center. The preliminary and detention hearings are scheduled for April 8.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshal Morgan is prosecuting this case.

In June 2011, 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 the Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force (PRCACTF).

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.

The investigation is part of 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.