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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Rhode Island

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 19, 2021

Virginia Truck Driver Detained in Rhode Island for Allegedly Transporting a Minor with Intent to Engage in Sexual Activity

Missing 15-year-old located in the sleeping compartment after driver is detained on outstanding warrant while attempting to enter Naval Station Newport

PROVIDENCE –  A Virginia truck driver detained by Naval Station Newport Police on April 2, 2021, when a routine background check conducted prior to his being allowed to enter the Navy base determined that he was wanted in Texas for felony assault of a child, appeared today in federal court in Providence on a charge of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity.

David Romero Reyes, 50, of Stafford, Virginia, was charged in U.S. District Court in Providence after an FBI and Rhode Island State Police investigation determined that Reyes allegedly had sexual contact in several states with a 15-year-old girl who was discovered in the sleeping compartment of his tractor-trailer by Naval Station Newport Police. The girl was reported missing from her Virginia home in July 2020, when she was 14 years old.

The girl entered the United States as an unaccompanied minor in February 2020.  She was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and placed in a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) facility.  HHS documents found in the truck indicate that in May 2020 she was removed from a Houston, Texas, HHS-funded facility by Reyes, who, according to HHS documents, identified himself as the girl’s distant relative. An FBI and Rhode Island State Police investigation determined that Reyes is a long-time friend of the girl’s father who lives in El Salvador and a distant cousin of the girl.

According to court documents, the girl resided in the Houston, TX, area with her mother and other relatives for several weeks after leaving the immigration detention center. The young teenager eventually left Texas with Reyes and began living in Virginia with a relative of Reyes. Shortly after moving to Virginia, when it became known by a family member that Reyes and the girl allegedly had a sexual relationship, the family member reported Reyes to law enforcement. Shortly thereafter, in July 2020, the girl left the home on a bicycle and was picked up nearby by Reyes. She was reported missing and had not been seen since. According to court documents, during the week the two travelled together in trucks driven by Reyes. On weekends they stayed at hotels or at an apartment rented by Reyes.

According to court documents, during interviews with law enforcement, Reyes and the now 15-year-old admitted to traveling together and engaging in sexual contact in multiple states. Investigators determined that Reyes, using the name David Romero, traveled in or through Rhode Island on at least six dates between February 1, 2021, and April 2,2021, the date of his arrest.

Reyes, detained in state custody since his arrest, appeared today in federal court in Providence on a criminal complaint charging him with transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity and was ordered detained, announced Acting United States Attorney Richard B. Myrus, Newport Naval Station Police Chief Lieutenant Ruben Gutierrez, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division Joseph R. Bonavolonta, and Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police Colonel James M. Manni.

A federal criminal complaint is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity is punishable by statutory penalties of 10 years to life imprisonment and lifetime federal supervised release.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. McAdams.

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Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Contact: 
Jim Martin (401) 709-5357
Press Release Number: 
20-52
Updated April 21, 2021