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Press Release

Individual Indicted and Arrested for Sex Trafficking of Children, Coercion and Enticement of a Minor, and Production and Receipt of Child Exploitation Material

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment charging Cándido López-Lebrón, 59, with sex trafficking of children. The United States Coast Guard Investigative Service was in charge of the investigation with the collaboration of the Department of Homeland Security.

According to court documents, López-Lebrón, from November 2022, to December 2023, knowingly affecting interstate commerce, recruited, enticed, harbored, transported a female minor between the ages of 11 and 12 years old, knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact that the female victim had not attained the age of 18 years and would be caused to engage in a commercial sex act. The defendant used a cellular phone, as well as internet instant messaging service to persuade, induce, entice, and coerce the female minor to engage in sexual activity.

In addition, López-Lebrón is charged with one count of production of child exploitation material and one count of receipt of child exploitation material.

“Those who engage in child exploitation, including the sex trafficking of children and possession of child sexual abuse material, will be held accountable for their criminal conduct,” said W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “I commend the prosecution team and our law enforcement partners who work tirelessly to ensure that these defendants are held accountable for their crimes.”

“Homeland Security - Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. Margelot stated, “The indictment of Cándido López-Lebrón for child sex trafficking is a powerful testament to our unwavering commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in our society. This joint effort between the Coast Guard Investigative Service and our Federal, State, and Local Partners underscores our determination and commitment to investigating criminal acts that extend beyond the waterline. We are dedicated to serving and safeguarding this community by ensuring the safety and well-being of our children.”

Homeland Security Investigation San Juan’s Special Agent in Charge Rebecca González-Ramos stated: “HSI is committed to our children, as a society we need to get together to protect our children, as an agency we won’t stop until every individual that commits a crime against our most vulnerable is prosecuted. Sex trafficking of children is a horrific form of human trafficking that requires everyone’s attention. During Human Trafficking Awareness Month we make a call to “see something, say something” encouraging individuals to report any suspicious activities. By raising awareness and staying vigilant, we can play a vital role in identifying and preventing these crimes.”

If convicted, the defendant faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years up to life in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daynelle Álvarez-Lora of the Child Exploitation and Immigration Unit is prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the 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 www.justice.gov/psc.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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Updated January 26, 2024

Topic
Project Safe Childhood
Press Release Number: 2024-003