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August 30, 2021Sierra Vista, AZ, United StatesChild Exploitation

HSI Phoenix, police arrest 2 men for alleged sexual exploitation of a minor

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. – Two area men were arrested in the past 72 hours on various counts of sexual exploitation of a minor as a result of ongoing investigations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Sierra Vista Police Department (SVPD).

“Innocent children are irreparably harmed in the production of child pornography, and individuals who distribute such revolting material continue to victimize them,” said Scott Brown, special agent in charge of HSI Phoenix. “Protecting the most innocent members of our society is a top priority for HSI and we will not concede in our efforts to take child predators off our streets by putting them where they belong - behind bars.”

On Friday morning, law enforcement executed a state search warrant at a residence on the 7200 block of SR 92 resulting in the arrest of Luis Cesar Fernandez De Castro, 35, of Sierra Vista.

The investigation began in July when the Sierra Vista Police Department received a cybertip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). A second cybertip was received in early August. Both cybertips identified an individual using the internet to transmit illicit child images in the Sierra Vista area.

Fernandez De Castro was identified as the suspect involved in the transmission, and detectives from the Sierra Vista Police Department and HSI special agents executed a search warrant.

Evidence of his activities was secured during the search resulting in his immediate arrest.

On Saturday, HSI special agents notified detectives with the Sierra Vista Police Department that Jesus Moreno-Cruz, 28, of Phoenix, was in the custody of U.S. Border Patrol. A search warrant was obtained for his electronic device where evidence of illicit child images was identified leading to his arrest.

Both defendants were booked into Cochise County Jail. Moreno-Cruz, faces three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. He remains in jail with bail set at $100,000. De Castro has been charged with eight counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. He remains in jail with bail set at $300,000.

“These investigations demonstrate how the extraordinary cooperation between SVPD and HSI helps keep our community safe from online predators,” said Thomas Ransford, SVPD’s lead detective on the cases.

HSI also 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. 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 NCMEC, ICAC partners, and other federal, state, and local agencies to help solve cases and rescue sexually exploited children. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to NCMEC’s toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-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.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS and a vital U.S. asset in combatting transnational crime and threats. 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. HSI is recognized as a global leader in this investigative discipline, and is committed to utilizing its vast authorities, international footprint and strong government and non-government 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.