A Broward man pleaded guilty to several child exploitation charges resulting from his travels to Colombia to engage in illicit sexual activity with two minors. The arrest followed an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami and HSI’s attaché office in Colombia; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the Department of Justice; the Judicial Attaché’s Office in Bogota, Colombia; the Broward Sheriff’s Office; the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; the Colombian Attorney General’s Technical Investigative Corps Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (CTI TCIU); the Colombian Navy; the Colombian Army Special Forces and Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar.
According to court documents and statements made in court, HSI’s attaché office in Colombia and the CTI TCIU conducted an undercover operation into a sex trafficking ring suspected of exploiting minors in Colombia.
In September 2014, HSI’s attaché office in Colombia received information that Dennis De Jesus, 46, of Ft. Lauderdale, intended to travel the following month from Florida to Colombia in order to engage in sexual activity with minors.
In an effort to further the investigation, a confidential source working with law enforcement created an undercover social media account. De Jesus became a social media friend of the confidential source. During the course of their internet communications, De Jesus discussed his plans to travel to Colombia in order to engage in illicit sexual activity with minors there.
On Oct. 11, HSI special agents other law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at De Jesus’ home in North Lauderdale. During the search, they discovered a computer in De Jesus’ bedroom, in addition to various costumes and masks. A forensic analysis of the computer uncovered videos featuring De Jesus with minors wearing costumes and masks. At least one of the videos showed two minors engaging in sexual acts.
Special agents also recovered De Jesus’ cell phone. The phone contained text messages between De Jesus, the undercover agent and two minors. In the messages, De Jesus stated he intended to return to Colombia in order to have a private party with minor females engaged in the sex tourism trade. De Jesus also referenced his previous trip to Colombia, during which he and a minor engaged in illicit sexual acts. Using his cell phone, De Jesus sent photographs of the costumes and presents he intended to give the minors in exchange for the sexual acts.
The investigation further revealed that De Jesus had traveled to Medellin, Colombia, in June 2013 and engaged in illicit sexual conduct with minor females.
This investigation was conducted under HSI’s Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2014, more than 2,300 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1000 victims identified or rescued.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.