Former Shelter Worker Sentenced to 10 Years of Imprisonment for Attempting to Coerce and Entice An Unaccompanied Alien Minor to Engage in Illicit Sexual Activity
Merice Perez Colon, 35, of Homestead, Florida, was sentenced by United States District Judge Kathleen M. Williams to 10 years’ imprisonment and 50 years of supervised release following her conviction for attempting to coerce and entice an unaccompanied alien minor to engage in illicit sexual activity.
Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Shimon R. Richmond, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG), Miami Regional Office, and Mark Selby, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), made the announcement.
Perez Colon was employed as a youth care worker at an emergency influx shelter that has since been closed in Homestead that provided services to unaccompanied alien children present in the United States. Perez Colon engaged in inappropriate relationships with minors she met at the shelter by sending and receiving explicit videos and images.
Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg said, “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners stand united against child exploitation and abuse. Any individual who victimizes unaccompanied alien minors or any other children, who are among society’s most vulnerable victims, can look to this sentencing and see they will face severe consequences within the federal criminal justice system.”
“The sexual exploitation of minors is particularly reprehensible,” said Special Agent in Charge Shimon R. Richmond of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “The OIG and our partners will tirelessly pursue those who would violate their position of trust in order to prey on children under the care of the U.S. Government. As seen in this case, they will be held accountable.”
“Perez Colon held a position where she was entrusted with providing care for unaccompanied minors - a trust she violated by sending inappropriate material to her victims,” said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Mark Selby. “Her behavior is indefensible; and it only reaffirms that joint law enforcement initiatives which target these types of offenders are the best way to ensure they are captured, and held accountable for their illegal and harmful behavior.”
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the 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 www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of HHS-OIG and ICE-HSI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Kobrinski.