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Press Release

Acoma Pueblo Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Child Sexual Abuse Charge

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE – Michael Paul Cerno, 38, of Acoma Pueblo, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning to felony information charging him with sexual abuse of a child under the age of 16 but older than 12.  Under the terms of his plea agreement, Cerno will be sentenced to a federal prison term of 65 months followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.  Cerno will also be required to register as a sex offender.

Cerno, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Acoma, who resides in Cibola County, N.M., was arrested in Aug. 2014, on a criminal complaint alleging that he sexually abused a 14-year old girl.  The indictment alleged that Cerno sexually abused the victim between July 1, 2011 and July 31, 2011, in Indian Country in Cibola County, N.M.  Law enforcement authorities learned of the crime two and a half years later.

During today’s plea hearing, Cerno admitted that between July 1, 2011 and July 31, 2011, he knowingly engaged in a sexual contact with the victim at a time when she was physically incapable or unable to decline participation in the sexual act.  Cerno acknowledged committing the crime in Acoma Pueblo.

Cerno has been in federal custody since his arrest.  He remains detained pending his sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.

This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI, the Acoma Tribal Police Department, and the Laguna/Acoma Agency of the BIA’s Office of Justice Services. 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Adams 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

Updated January 26, 2015