U.S. Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez announces $175,450 in Justice Department grants to support Project Safe Neighborhoods
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Joshua Rico, 25, of Pecos, New Mexico, was arraigned today in federal court on a five-count indictment charging him with coercion and enticement of minors. A federal grand jury indicted Rico on May 12. Rico will remain in custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for May 21.
According to the indictment and other court records, beginning as early as January 2018, Rico allegedly used multiple profiles on the social media platform Snapchat to coerce minor girls into sending him sexually explicit photos and videos and engage in sexual acts. Using his position as a high school basketball coach to target girls he knew, Rico allegedly used fictitious profiles under the names “Chris Lujan” and “Erik Romero” as well as a profile in his own name to threaten, coerce and manipulate at least four minor victims. Rico allegedly sent photos of his own genitalia, requested explicit photos and videos from the victims, and threatened to expose compromising photos and videos to extort sexual acts for his own gratification.
The New Mexico State Police, the FBI, and the Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory investigated this case as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC) and the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. PSC is an initiative designed to help law enforcement and community leaders develop a coordinated strategy to prevent, investigate, and prosecute sexual predators, abusers, and pornographers who target children through the internet. The ICAC program is a nation-wide network of task forces consisting of federal, state and local law enforcement dedicated to this issue and are key partners in Project Safe Childhood.
“Cases like this remind of us the importance of vigilance,” said Fred J. Federici, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico. “We must stress, especially to minors, the risks of electronically sharing material of a sensitive or compromising nature. But law enforcement must also be vigilant in our duty to investigate and prosecute those who exploit new and emerging technologies to target unsuspecting victims. It is the perpetrators, not the victims, who are responsible for their crimes and manipulation.”
“Protecting our children, and ensuring they are safe is one of the most important things we do in law enforcement” said Robert Thornton, Chief of the New Mexico State Police. “As access to technology increases, so does the means for those who would do harm to our kids. The New Mexico State Police is proud of our working relationship with the FBI and Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory that allows us to investigate these offenses.”
“Online predators seeking to exploit children unfortunately are becoming more common,” said Raul Bujanda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office. “The FBI hopes these charges send a warning to perpetrators there is nowhere in cyberspace they can escape justice. We also want to urge young people to be careful with their online communications and to be thoughtful about the content they share.”
An indictment is only an allegation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, Rico faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah Mease and Jaymie L. Roybal are prosecuting the case.