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December 6, 2019San Francisco, CA, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking, Child Exploitation

ICE HSI San Francisco takes victim-centric approach on criminal investigations

SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Northern California Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) worked tirelessly throughout fiscal year 2019 to bring criminals to justice and heighten community awareness of their initiatives to combat human trafficking, child exploitation and transnational gang criminal activity.

Northern California HSI agents relentless work on criminal investigations resulted in more than 1,000 criminal arrests, according to fiscal year 2019 data. Nationally, HSI agents arrested more than 37,500 criminals.

"We have an incredibly complex mission in the San Francisco area," said Tatum King, special agent in charge, San Francisco. "Our partnerships with local, state, federal, tribal, and international law enforcement agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations and elected officials, are critical to us being able to serve and protect the communities where we live."

Special agents from across HSI San Francisco's AOR have dedicated themselves to protecting children and rooting out predators for decades. In fiscal year 2019, HSI agents working child exploitation related cases effected more than 115 criminal arrests, an increase of nearly seven percent from fiscal year 2018 and reflecting HSI's firm commitment to ending these heinous crimes against children, wherever they occur. Many of these investigations and arrests were supported by HSI's criminal analysts in collaboration with local law enforcement partners as part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces in the region.

One multi-faceted HSI San Francisco case involved working with transnational partners to bring a child predator to justice. Agents initiated an investigation into Freddy J. Horna, of Antioch, California, who was requesting a female in Peru to send him sexually explicit images of a minor via social media. Agents arrested Horna and coordinated with HSI agents in Columbia to rescue the minor in Peru. In October 2019, Horna was sentenced to 102 months for distribution of child pornography.

During this same period of time, HSI agents continued their investigations into gang activity in the Northern California area making more than 240 arrests. In one of many multi-agency criminal investigations, HSI agents in Fresno County area continued to pursue gang activity related to a 2018 case in which 25 MS-13 gang members participated in a drug trafficking conspiracy in both Fresno County and Los Angeles. Current charges include kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering. These defendants allegedly obtained, sold, and profited from street‑level drug dealing, and used the proceeds to further MS-13's criminal objectives.

HSI San Francisco agents also focused their efforts to combat human trafficking in the area. One particularly egregious HSI human trafficking case involved a Hayward, California man. Job Torres Hernandez was sentenced in June to 103 months in prison and was also ordered to pay $919,738.64 of unpaid wages in restitution, after being convicted earlier in 2019 on charges that he obtained forced labor from victims and harbored illegal aliens for commercial advantage or private financial gain.

During the 10-day jury trial, victims of Hernandez testified to being kept in squalid conditions and shielded from detection while having to work as long as 24 consecutive hours at a time. Witnesses testified that Torres paid them far less than what he had promised to pay them, and when they complained, Torres threatened them or their family members.

"Our victim-centric approach has led to hundreds of successful criminal arrests praying on our most vulnerable community members," said King. "The mission can be daunting, but HSI San Francisco agents have risen to the challenge as they investigate criminal activity daily and collaborate with local law enforcement partners to bring these criminals to justice."

As the largest investigative agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), HSI investigates and enforces more than 400 federal criminal statutes – more than any other U.S. law enforcement agency. HSI special agents use this authority to investigate cross-border criminal activity – including drug trafficking – and work in close coordination with local state and federal law enforcement agencies to target transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) that are bringing dangerous substances, such as illicit fentanyl and methamphetamine, into the community.

In fiscal year 2019, more than 10,000 pounds of various types of illegal narcotics were seized by HSI, in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other local, state and federal partners under the Northern California and Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces.

HSI agents, with support from a cadre of professional staff, in the San Francisco office are responsible for Northern California, including San Francisco Bay Area and the Central Valley, and represented by eight HSI offices. Their area of responsibility extends north to the Oregon border, east to the Nevada border, southeast to include Bakersfield, California and southwest to include Monterey, California.

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. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.

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.

If you would like to report suspicious criminal activity: Call 866-347-2423 (from U.S. and Canada).

Additional resources available to the public are the Blue Campaign and iGuardian.