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Child Exploitation

Mexican predator arrested by ICE

HORN LAKE, Miss. - A Mexican national convicted of fondling a minor was arrested Jan. 20 at the Desoto County Sheriff's Office by officers assigned to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO).

Juan Vera-Serna, 34, was identified by DRO officers on May 7, 2009, during screening at the Horn Lake Police Department following his arrest for simple assault, simple assault with intent and felony child fondling. During an interview, he provided an alias name to officers; however, fingerprint checks revealed his true identity and the fact that he had been previously removed from the United States in 1994.

Since Vera-Serna had previously been removed from the United States, his case was presented to the U. S. Attorney's Office in Northern Mississippi for criminal prosecution as an illegal reentry.

"ICE will continue using its unique immigration authorities to identify and arrest those who present a threat to our community," said Philip Miller, field office director for ICE's Office of Detention and Removal in New Orleans. "Criminals in Mississippi should be on notice, because we will find you and bring you to justice."

This case was part of Operation Predator, which is a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers. Since Operation Predator was launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested almost 12,000 individuals.

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.