El Paso Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Child Exploitation Charge
ALBUQUERQUE – Juan Carlos Hernandez, 44, of El Paso, Texas, pled guilty in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., this morning to a felony information charging him with the online enticement of a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Hernandez will be sentenced to ten years in federal prison to be followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. Hernandez also will be required to register as a sex offender.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Dennis A. Ulrich, II, of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in El Paso, Doña Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison, and Las Cruces Police Chief Jaime Montoya.
Hernandez was arrested on Feb. 28, 2014, by HSI on a criminal complaint alleging that he engaged in the online solicitation of a child under the age of 16 years between Sept. 2012 and June 2013. The criminal complaint also charged Hernandez with traveling from El Paso to Anthony, N.M., in June 2013, with the intention of having illicit sexual contact with a child under the age of 16 years.
According to court filings, Hernandez met the child victim on an Internet social networking website in Sept. 2012, and the two began communicating regularly by text messaging on cellphones in May 2013. Hernandez was arrested on state charges in the early hours of June 22, 2013, after deputies of the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office found him with the child victim at a park in Anthony, N.M.
In July 2013, HSI obtained federal search warrants for the cellphones seized from Hernandez and the child victim. Information obtained through the search warrants revealed that Hernandez engaged in sexually explicit communication with the child victim. It also revealed that Hernandez was aware that the child victim was under the age of 16 years and that prior to meeting the child victim, Hernandez told her that he was 17, 18 and 22 years old at various times.
In his plea agreement, Hernandez admitted intentionally enticing underage females online to engage in illegal sexual activity with him between Sept. 1, 2012 and June 22, 2013, by using a social account which he accessed with his cellphone and computer. Hernandez admitted telling minor females that he was 18-years-old. Hernandez specifically admitted engaging in multiple sexually explicit conversations with a 13-year-old girl.
Hernandez has been in custody since his arrest and remains in custody pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
This case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of HSI, the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office and the Las Cruces Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marisa A. Lizarraga of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and DOJ’s Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.justice.gov/psc/.
The case also was brought as part of the New Mexico Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force’s mission, which is to locate, track, and capture Internet child sexual predators and Internet child pornographers in New Mexico. There are 74 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies associated with the ICAC Task Force, which is funded by a grant administered by the NMAGO. Anyone with information relating to suspected child predators and suspected child abuse is encouraged to contact federal or local law enforcement.