Three South Texas Men Charged with Online Solicitation of a Minor
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Three local men are in custody on separate, but similar cases of soliciting a minor for sexual purposes, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez.
The federal criminal complaints were filed yesterday against Spencer Salcedo, 41, and Jesse Hernandez, 52, both of Corpus Christi, and Darrell Freeze, 54, of Pettus. Salcedo was taken into custody today and is expected to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington at 2:00 p.m. Hernandez and Freeze were taken into custody on related charges last week and made their appearances in federal court yesterday, at which time they were temporarily ordered into custody pending a detention hearing set for July 31.
All were arrested as part of Operation Hidden Predator, a joint operation conducted by the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Corpus Christi Police Department—Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office.
“Our children are our nation’s most valuable asset,” said Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI. “The Federal Bureau of Investigation will utilize and combine all of our resources with our federal, state and local partners to effectively and efficiently safeguard our children.”
The charges allege the men were communicating with a person they believed was the mother of two minor children — ages 14 and 11. Each man allegedly expected to meet and engage in sexual contact with the minors. They were arrested as they arrived at the designated meeting place.
If convicted, each man faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.
This case, prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hugo R. Martinez, was 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."
A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law