El Paso Man Arrested on Federal Child Exploitation Charges
ALBUQUERQUE – Juan Carlos Hernandez, 44, of El Paso, Texas, made his initial appearance in Las Cruces federal court on a criminal complaint charging him with online enticement of a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity and interstate travel to meet a minor with the intent to engage in illicit sexual activity. Hernandez remains in custody pending a preliminary hearing and detention hearing, which have yet to be scheduled.
Hernandez was arrested on Feb. 28, 2014, by Homeland Security Investigations (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 alleges that Hernandez traveled 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 the criminal complaint, Hernandez met the child victim on an Internet social networking website in Sept. 2012, and the two began communicating regularly through 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 on June 22, 2013. Information obtained through the search warrants revealed that Hernandez allegedly engaged in sexually explicit communication with the child victim. It also allegedly 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.
If convicted on the online solicitation charge, Hernandez faces a mandatory minimum of ten years to life in prison. If convicted on the interstate travel charge, Hernandez faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. The charges in the complaint are merely accusations and Hernandez is presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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 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.