ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands — A 44-year-old man pleaded guilty in district court here today to sex tourism charges following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation.
According to the indictment, on or about Sept. 27, 2008, Victor Cancel, of La Grande Princess, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands traveled from St. Croix to the Dominican Republic for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor.
The case began in Aug. 2008 when ICE agents received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that Cancel would be traveling to the Dominican Republic in Sept. 2008 to have sex with a minor girl.
Consistent with the tip, on Sept. 27, 2008, Cancel traveled to the Dominican Republic from St. Croix to meet a 14-year-old girl for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual activity. While in the Dominican Republic, Cancel gave the victim money and gifts to include a cellular phone, perfume, shoes, a dress, a necklace with a pendant, an ankle bracelet and a gold ring. He engaged in illicit sexual conduct with the child several times during the course of his stay. Cancel also took photographs of some of the illicit sexual conduct with the child on his cellular phone.
"All children have an absolute right to grow up free from the fear of sexual exploitation," said Manuel Oyola Torres, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in San Juan. "ICE relentlessly pursues predators who sexually abuse children, whether that abuse is physical in nature or if it's accomplished by exploiting their images. Our agents will continue investigating these crimes and will use their authorities to bring to justice those individuals who exploit the most vulnerable segment of our society – our children."
On Oct. 7, 2008, Cancel departed the Dominican Republic to return to St. Croix via the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (LMMIA) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Prior to his arrival in Puerto Rico, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors had been alerted by ICE agents that Cancel might have traveled to the Dominican Republic to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a child and that he was scheduled to connect through Puerto Rico on his return flight to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Upon Cancel's arrival to the LMMIA in San Juan, CBP inspectors discovered images on his cellular phone of him and the victim engaged in illicit sexual conduct. He was subsequently interviewed by Puerto Rico ICE agents and admitted to engaging in illicit sexual conduct with the minor, knowing that she was a minor at the time of the acts, and to photographing the activity on his cell phone.
In separate federal charges filed in Puerto Rico, Cancel pleaded on Jan. 7, 2008 to producing child pornography in connection with his photographing the illicit sexual conduct on his cellular phone.
The mandatory minimum penalty for producing child pornography is 15 years in prison. The maximum penalty for traveling with the intent to have sex with a minor, the offense for which Cancel was charged in the U.S. Virgin Islands, is 30 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
Cancel is currently in U.S. Marshals custody pending sentencing. The sentencing date has been set for April 2009 in the district of the U.S. Virgin Islands. A sentencing date for the district of Puerto Rico case is pending.
The arrest of Victor Cancel was part of a nationwide initiative known as Operation Predator. Operation Predator protects our children from sexual predators, including those who travel across continents to have sex with minors. Internet child pornographers and criminal alien sex offenders and child traffickers are also a priority for ICE. Since the initiative was launched in July of 2003, there have been more than 11,500 individuals arrested nationwide.
ICE encourages anyone who wants to report suspicious activity of suspected child predators and suspicious activity through our toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. Investigators staff this hotline around the clock.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http:/www.cybertipline.com.