FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
AUSA VICKIE E. LEDUC or
MARCIA MURPHY at 410-209-4885
August 5, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARYLAND TRUCKER PLEADS GUILTY TO TRANSPORTING
AN 11 YEAR OLD GIRL TO HAVE SEX
Girl Was Found Hours After an AMBER Alert Was Issued in Tennessee;
Trucker Intended to Take Her to Texas and El Salvador
Greenbelt, Maryland - Elmer Zelaya-Robles, age 41, of Grand Prairie, Texas, who worked for a Maryland trucking company and at times resided with a relative in Virginia, pleaded guilty today to transporting an 11 year old girl from Maryland to engage in sex.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein, Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Chief Roberto L. Hylton of the Prince George’s County Police Department.
“Nationwide law enforcement coordination, modern technology and a shared commitment to pursue criminals who prey on children contributed to the quick arrest of Mr. Zelaya and the recovery of the child,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Local, state and federal law enforcement quickly coordinated their efforts and within hours after issuing an AMBER alert, the missing girl was found in Tennessee. This case demonstrates both the terrible danger that sexual predators pose to children and the heroic ability of law enforcement to make a difference.”
According to Zelaya-Robles’ plea agreement, the parents of an 11 year old girl living in Prince George’s County, Maryland reported their daughter missing on February 13, 2010. At approximately 2:00 a.m. that morning, Zelaya-Robles had picked up the girl at her parents’ home. Zelaya-Robles, an El Salvadorean citizen, had been a friend of the child’s family.
That day, Zelaya-Robles drove the child by car from Prince George’s County to Arlington County, Virginia. Zelaya-Robles and the child entered a tractor trailer truck. Zelaya-Robles had sexual intercourse with the child in the sleeper area of the truck. Zelaya-Robles and the child left Virginia for Texas in the truck. While driving to Texas, Zelaya-Robles stopped at a truck stop and purchased coffee and two boxes of condoms. Zelaya-Robles had sexual intercourse with the child at least one more time.
That same day, the child contacted her mother by telephone, and stated that she was with Zelaya-Robles. Zelaya-Robles contacted the child’s father by telephone, and stated that he was in love with the child. Zelaya-Robles apparently had been talking to the child on the phone for about a year, and planned with the child to reside in Dallas, Texas. The child’s family told Zelaya-Robles to return their daughter and that they had contacted the police. Thereafter, Zelaya-Robles made several calls to arrange to cross the border into Mexico and reside in El Salvador.
After an AMBER Alert was broadcast, a Tennessee highway trooper spotted the truck and followed it to a truck stop in Jackson, Tennessee. The trooper stopped the vehicle. When asked if he had anyone riding with him, Zelaya-Robles stated that his daughter was with him. The trooper found the child in the sleeper area of the tractor trailer and arrested Zelaya-Robles.
Zelaya faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison. Zelaya is detained pending trial. U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. scheduled sentencing for December 6, 2010 at 9:30 a.m.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), 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 www.projectsafechildhood.gov. Details about Maryland’s program are available at www.justice.gov/usao/md/Safe-Childhood/index.html.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked Prince George’s County Assistant State’s Attorney Renee Battle-Brooks and the Tennessee Highway Patrol for their assistance in the investigation and prosecution, and commended Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacy Dawson Belf, who is prosecuting the case.