Following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) probe, special agents assigned to the HSI San Juan Child Exploitation Investigations Group (CEIG) arrested Tuesday and Wednesday seven men on child exploitation charges.
The arrests were part of law enforcement operation targeting child predators dubbed “Firewall” that took place in Lajas, Orocovis, Aguada, Cataño, Florida, Carolina and Ponce.
On June 1 and 8, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned multiple indictments against seven defendants charging them with child possession, distribution, production and advertisement of child pornography.
HSI special agents arrested Gabriel Cañas-Guerrero, 23, of Ponce and Victor Gadiel Reyes-Rodriguez, 31, of Orocovis, for possession of images depicting actual minors engaging in sexually illicit conduct while Christian Joel Lorenzo-Feliciano, 22, of Aguada, was arrested for distribution and possession of child pornography.
(Make it hard for predators to hide; download the Operation Predator app today from iTunes or Google Play. Courtesy of ICE and YouTube)
According to the indictment, Lorenzo Feliciano used a file-sharing computer program with access to the Internet to distribute visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually illicit conduct.
Likewise, HSI special agents arrested Angel Luis Sepulveda-Ramos, 45, of Lajas and Martin Suarez-Imbert, 42, of Carolina, for advertising child pornography.
Sepulveda-Ramos was also charged with transportation of child pornography. The indictment alleges that he used the Ares peer-to-peer software to share child pornography and that he transported such contraband.
Two other defendants, Vidal Berrios-Davila, 65, of Cataño and Francisco Javier Alicea-Baez, were arrested for receipt and distribution of child pornography.
“HSI is seeing a growing trend in which children are being enticed, tricked and coerced online by adults to produce sexually explicit material of themselves,” said Orlando Baez, deputy special agent in charge of HSI San Juan.
“While we will continue to prioritize the arrest of child predators, we cannot arrest our way out of this problem; education is the key to prevention.”
“These indictments represent a strong coordinated strike, by Homeland Security Investigations and the U. S. Attorney’s Office, against child pornography and those who allegedly seek to harm our most vulnerable citizens, our young children.”
“Clearly, this criminal activity has reached epidemic proportions and ICE HSI will continue to partner here and across jurisdictions to target those adults who egregiously violate the children of our communities.”
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elba Gorbea and Ginette Milanés, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Cristina Caraballo, under the supervision of AUSA Marshal Morgan, Chief of the Crimes Against Children and Human Trafficking Unit.
This investigation was conducted under HSI’s Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators.
(On November 12, 2008, the Department of Justice along with our Project Safe Childhood (PSC) partners launched a new National Public Awareness Campaign. Courtesy of Project Safe Childhood and YouTube)
Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 12,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children.
In fiscal year 2014, more than 2,300 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.
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.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.