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Child Exploitation

ICE captures international fugitive residing in Central Florida wanted for rape of a 12-year-old child and extortion

OCALA, Fla. - Today, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents and officers arrested a Belgian man in Ocala who is wanted in his home country for child rape and extortion.

ICE, assisted by the Marion County Sheriff's Office, administratively arrested Andy Vertoont, 31, a native of Belgium, at his Ocala place of employment for being in violation of U.S. immigration law.

Vertoont remains in ICE custody pending his removal to Belgium, where he is wanted on an arrest warrant for the June 2009 rape of a 12 year-old-boy in Belgium. He had been arrested in Belgium and conditionally released prior to his trial. Shortly thereafter, he fled to the United States to avoid prosecution in Belgium.

He is further accused of extorting 12,000 Euros (approximately $17,000 in U.S. currency) from an individual in Belgium, where he allegedly threatened to physically harm the individual if he did not pay the money.

Vertoont was previously arrested, convicted and sentenced in Belgium in 2001 for raping two children, ages 11 and 12.

"Criminals who think that they can use the United States as a safe haven are sorely mistaken," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Tampa, Fla. "ICE is committed to ensuring the integrity of our nation's immigration system. As such, it is one of our top priorities to locate foreign fugitives hiding in the United States and turn them over to our foreign law enforcement partners to face justice in their native countries."

ICE HSI special agents in Orlando initiated an investigation as a result of a request for assistance from the Belgian Federal Police and the ICE Attaché office in Brussels.

Vertoont last entered the United States on Oct. 1, 2009, on a visa waiver not to extend beyond 90 days and he remained in the United States beyond 90 days without authorization.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.