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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 17, 2015

Laredoan Arrested For Online Solicitation Of A Minor

A Criminal Complaint Is A Formal Accusation Of Criminal Conduct, Not Evidence.

LAREDO, Texas - Fernando Hernandez-Rodas, 24, has been arrested on charges of coercion or enticement of a minor, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Hernandez-Rodas is a Honduran National who resided in Laredo legally under the deferred action for childhood arrivals (Dream Act).

Hernandez-Rodas was arrested last night upon the filing of a criminal complaint. He is expected to make his initial appearance Monday April 20, 2015 before U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker in Laredo.

“This case, once again, illustrates the true value of the Laredo Child Exploitation Task Force in bringing together multiple law enforcement agencies with the goal of protecting the children of our community,” said Deputy Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Laredo. “We’re proud of the relationships we’ve forged with our law enforcement partners.”

The criminal complaint alleges Hernandez-Rodas was communicating with a person he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. In reality, he was actually talking to an undercover agent. During the course of the communications, Hernandez-Rodas made arrangements to meet and engage in sexual activity with the “young girl.”

He was apprehended as he arrived at the designated meeting place.

“We would like to remind parents that it’s extremely important to keep a watchful eye on children’s online activity,” said Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar. “In this case, luckily, the person whom the suspect thought he was speaking with was an undercover agent.”

“Law enforcement is dedicated to protecting the future of our community - the children of Laredo,” said Chief Ray Garner of the Laredo Police Department. “Those that are suspected of preying on our children are being stopped by a proactive child predator program manned by federal, city and county law enforcement. The Laredo Police Department is in support of this program and we thank the men and women that protect our children each day.”

The arrest of Hernandez-Rodas was a result of Operation Child Guardian, which was launched by the Webb County Sheriff’s Office in 2009. The success of these investigations have put dozens of suspected child predators behind bars.

The prosecution is being brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."

The investigation was led by HSI with assistance from the Webb County Sheriff's Office Cyber Crime Unit and the Laredo Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Ellison is prosecuting the case.

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Updated April 30, 2015