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August 16, 2023Laredo, TX, United StatesChild Exploitation

HSI Laredo probe results in lengthy prison sentence for Texas man who possessed child sexual

LAREDO, Texas — A South Texas man was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison for possessing child sexual abuse material, including content he created from his own abuse of a minor victim. The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Laredo’s Child Exploitation Task Force with help from the LaSalle County Sheriff’s Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Jose Luis Lara, 27, of Cotulla, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo to serve a 20-year prison term — the maximum allowed under the statute. In handing down the sentence, Marmolejo noted the extremely disturbing nature of Lara’s acts toward a minor child, remarking that she would have given him more time if she could. Lara pleaded guilty Feb. 1, 2022.

“The sentencing in this case represents how committed HSI is about arresting and bringing to justice dangerous predators from our streets,” said HSI San Antonio Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee. “The HSI Laredo Child Exploitation Task Force and its partners stand at the forefront of child exploitation investigations as they dedicate countless hours to ensure predators face serious consequences for these heinous crimes.”

According to court documents, authorities identified Lara in 2021 after they learned of an individual sharing child sexual abuse material online who may have also abused a child. On July 21, 2021, law enforcement officials searched his home in Cotulla with a warrant and seized several electronic devices. Authorities showed Lara a photo of a child; he admitted to filming videos of himself abusing that child. He said he filmed the child in Big Wells before moving to Cotulla. Law enforcement authorities ultimately identified a total of 1,151 images and 699 videos of child sexual abuse material, including the videos Lara had filmed himself.

Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Michal Makens prosecuted the case.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free tip line at 866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock. From outside the United States and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users may call TTY 802-872-6196.

HSI takes a victim-centered approach to child exploitation investigations by working to identify, rescue and stabilize victims. HSI works in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, ICAC partners, and other federal, state and local agencies to help solve cases and rescue sexually exploited children. You can report suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 800-THE-LOST.

HSI is a founding member 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.

One of HSI’s top priorities is to protect the public from crimes of victimization, and HSI’s child exploitation investigations program is a central component of this mission set. Further, HSI is recognized as a global leader in this investigative discipline. The directorate is committed to utilizing its vast authorities, international footprint and strong government and nongovernment partnerships to identify and rescue child victims; identify and apprehend offenders; prevent transnational child sexual abuse; and help make the internet a safer place for children.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 08/22/2023