San Diego-based human trafficking investigation leads to criminal charges for foreign national
SAN DIEGO — A Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Diego-led investigation with support from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern District of California resulted in criminal charges against a foreign national accused of human smuggling and sexually exploiting an underage migrant.
Cecilio Jimenez-Bautista, 26, of Mexico, appeared in federal court April 6 to face charges that he sexually abused a 17-year-old unaccompanied minor he and his brother guided from Tijuana, Mexico, into the United States in June 2022.
According to allegations in a grand jury indictment, Cecilio Jimenez-Bautista and his brother, Alexander Jimenez-Bautista, guided the girl and other Mexican citizens from Mexico to the United States through the Otay Mountain Wilderness area with the intent to violate U.S. immigration laws. Over the course of three days, they took the group along remote, rugged and desolate paths before U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended them near Otay Lakes Road.
During those three days, Cecilio Jimenez-Bautista repeatedly isolated the girl from the group placed her in fear and sexually abused her, the indictment said. He ultimately used her fear of him to cause her to engage in sex with him, causing her serious bodily injury.
Both brothers face charges related to their roles as foot guides for a human smuggling organization from June 2022 to February 2023.
“We will do everything in our power to protect children from harm,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “The United States is committed to protecting the rights of all individuals on our soil, especially the most vulnerable.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team and investigating agencies for their excellent work on this case.
“We are continuously watchful and alert to deter, detect and prevent threats to any individual,” said San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron M. Heitke. “This includes working together with our law enforcement partners to identify smugglers and their organizations who take advantage and profit by placing human lives at risk.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Katherine McGrath and Edward Chang of the Southern District of California are prosecuting the case with trial attorney Danielle L. Hickman of the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division.
The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
This case was supported by Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA). JTFA was created by the Attorney General in June 2021 in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to strengthen the Department’s overall efforts to combat these crimes based on the rise in prolific and dangerous smuggling from and through Central America and impacting our border communities. JTFA’s goal is to disrupt and dismantle those human smuggling and trafficking networks operating in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, with a focus on networks that endanger, abuse or exploit migrants, present national security risks, or engage in other types of transnational organized crime.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California helps lead JTFA, which is comprised of detailees from southwest border U.S. attorney’s offices, including the Southern District of Texas, the Western District of Texas, the District of New Mexico, the District of Arizona and the Southern District of California, and dedicated support for the program is also provided by numerous components of the Criminal Division that are part of JTFA — led by the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and supported by the Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training; the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section; the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section; the Office of Enforcement Operations; the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs; and the Organized Crime and Gang Section.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 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.