Pastor From Ponce Arrested Federally For Transportation Of Minors With Intent To Engage In Criminal Sexual Conduct
SAN JUAN, P.R. –Nelson Santiago-Colón, a Pastor for the Iglesia Cristiana Peniel, located in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, was arrested today by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents and the Puerto Rico Police Department on charges related to the transportation of minors with the intent to engage in criminal sexual conduct, announced United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.
On or about January 18, 2013, after an exhaustive investigation by local authorities, Nelson Santiago-Colón, was arrested by the Police of Puerto Rico on charges of sexual aggression of minors, lascivious acts and child abuse, and was granted bail in the amount of $110,000 by Puerto Rico Superior Court Judge Sheila Díaz. Shortly after the defendant posted bail, Puerto Rico Department of Justice officials contacted Federal authorities to charge Santiago-Colón under the laws of the United States. Immediately, special agents from HSI, together with federal prosecutors, began interviewing the victims from the local case.
As a result of such investigation by Federal authorities, today, agents from HSI, the Police of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice, arrested Nelson Santiago-Colón, 47, on Federal charges of transporting three minor males to his home where he sexually assaulted and committed lewd and lascivious act on them.
According to the three-count complaint, Santiago-Colón is charged with transportation of minors with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. In Counts I and II, Santiago-Colon is charged with having transported a 14-year-old boy and a 12-year-old boy from the Iglesia Cristiana Peniel in Santa Isabel to his home in Ponce, Puerto Rico for the purpose of committing sexual assault and lewd acts with the minors. Count III charges Santiago-Colón with transporting a 14-year-old minor from his home to the home of the defendant with the intent to perform lewd acts on the minor.
Assistant United States Attorney Marshal D. Morgan is in charge of the prosecution. Moreover, in recognition of the exhaustive investigation conducted by the local authorities in this case, Puerto Rico Department of Justice prosecutor Camilie Soto has been invited to act as a Special Assistant United States Attorney to assist AUSA Morgan with the Federal prosecution of this case.
If convicted, the defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of incarceration of ten years and a possible maximum statutory penalty of life imprisonment.
“This is a flagship case to demonstrate the excellent cooperation that exists between local and Federal authorities in Puerto Rico,” said United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. “The public should be aware that there are two sovereigns out there watching over their children. If a situation like this one presents itself, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will not hesitate to work together with local authorities to maximize our joint prosecutorial resources and bring to justice those who believe they can molest our children with impunity.
“Anyone who targets children for sexual exploitation should also consider themselves a target by HSI and by our law enforcement partners,” said Ángel Meléndez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “HSI aggressively uses its investigative authorities to protect our communities from those who seek to sexually exploit children for their perverse gratification. We have an obligation to protect those most vulnerable in our society who cannot protect themselves.”
Criminal complaints contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.