Jury Convicts Georgia Man of Child Enticement in Operation End Game Case
MACON, Ga. – A Winterville, Georgia, resident was convicted of attempted online child enticement resulting from a law enforcement effort focused on arresting child sex predators in the Athens, Georgia, area.
Noe A. Villafuerte, 47, of Winterville, Georgia, was convicted of attempted online enticement of a minor by a federal jury today in Macon federal court. U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal presided over the trial. Villafuerte faces a mandatory minimum of ten years up to a maximum term of life imprisonment, a maximum lifetime of supervised release and registration as a sex offender for life. A sentencing date has been scheduled for July 14, 2022.
“This predator was willing to victimize what he thought was a 14-year-old child; fortunately, he ran into the arms of law enforcement instead,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Operation End Game was a highly successful law enforcement effort to protect children involving local, state and federal agencies collaborating through Georgia’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.”
“The GBI will continue to work tirelessly to protect innocent victims of online exploitation. We are grateful for the partnerships we maintain with our local and federal agencies to bring these predators to justice,” said GBI Director Vic Reynolds
“Predators like Villafuerte are just another example of why parents need to be vigilant and aware of their children’s online activity,” said Philip Wislar, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Fortunately, he connected with an undercover detective and not a child. The FBI remains committed to protecting our young citizens and is thankful for the law enforcement partnerships that make it possible to bring child predators to justice.”
According to court documents and testimony presented at trial, Villafuerte was arrested as a result of “Operation End Game,” a three-day proactive effort from July 25-27, 2019, centered in Athens, Georgia, to arrest adults communicating with children on-line and traveling to meet them for the purpose of having sex. During the online operation, an undercover detective posing as a 14-year-old girl placed an ad on an “escort” website known to be used by human traffickers. Villafuerte responded to the ad and began communicating with the undercover agent on July 25. Villafuerte offered to pay the child $60 for sex in his vehicle and they agreed to meet at a Kroger in Athens on July 26. Villafuerte was arrested shortly before 5:00 p.m. in the parking lot after searching the store and lot for the child.
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 the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
The case was investigated by the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, the GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC), the Athens-Clarke County Police Department (ACCPD), the FBI and the Athens-Clarke County District Attorney’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lyndie Freeman and Robert McCullers are prosecuting the case.