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Press Release

Two Area Men Sentenced in Separate, But Similar Child Pornography Cases

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

LAREDO, Texas – Two men who were residing in Laredo have been ordered to federal prison for possessing child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Special Agent in Charge James Spero of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar.

Edmundo Cardenas, 23, a legal permanent resident, and Mexican national Luis Pena-Rios, 45, both resided in Laredo. Cardenas pleaded guilty May 6, 2015, while Pena-Rios entered his plea in August 2014.

Today, Senior U.S. District Judge George P. Kazen sentenced Cardenas to 40 months in federal prison, while Pena-Rios was ordered to serve a 84-month-term. Both men will also be required to register as a sex offender and are expected to face deportation proceedings following their release from federal prison.

“Our goal is to continue keeping a watchful eye on those that prey on our children,” said Cuellar. “These child predators will be caught and brought to justice.”

Pena-Rios and Cardenas were charged in separate, but similar cases. In January 2014, an investigator with the Webb County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) conducted an undercover online operation trying to identify IP addresses sharing child pornography a peer-to-peer network. That investigation led to the discovery of two IP addresses which appeared to be sharing files of known child pornography. One was linked to Cardenas and his family, while the other was found to belong to a business address.

In March 2014, HSI agents executed a federal search warrant for the residential address associated with the first IP address. Four individuals were present at the residence and were interviewed by authorities, one of whom was Cardenas. He first denied any possession of child pornography, but soon recanted and admitted he began downloading child pornography several years ago. HSI agents seized electronics devices from Cardenas to include two laptops and a thumb drive. Forensic examination ultimately led to the discovery of a total of 41 video files on the laptops and several additional videos on a thumb drive, all containing child pornography.

In the latter case, HSI agents identified the business associated with the IP address suspected of sharing the pornographic images and executed a search warrant. There, agents interviewed the owner who reported that computers at the business had restricted Internet service because he did not want employees using it for personal purposes during business hours. However, he told agents that he and his brother, Pena-Rios, both used the Internet at the business. Agents then interviewed Pena-Rios who soon admitted to having downloaded child pornography from the Internet using the business laptop and then transferring the videos to his personal computer using thumb drives. Forensic examination revealed several still images and videos consistent with child pornography.

"By participating in these types of investigations, HSI special agents are helping to take child predators off the Internet, out of our communities and put them behind bars,” said Spero. “This sentence sends a clear message that there are serious consequences for those who exploit children in anyway. Targeting crimes of this nature is a high priority for HSI. We will continue to dedicate resources and work with our law enforcement partners to identify and bring to justice these individuals.”

Pena-Rios and Cardenas are in custody where they will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The arrests of Pena-Rios and Cardenas were a result of Operation Child Guardian, which was launched by the WCSO 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 For more information about internet safety education, please visit and click on the tab "resources."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sonah Lee is prosecuting both cases.

Updated August 21, 2015

Project Safe Childhood