LOS ANGELES – A police officer employed by the Los Angeles Unified School District was taken into federal custody this morning after being named in an indictment that charges him with the attempted sex trafficking of a child.
Mauricio Edgardo Estrada, 28, who has been placed on administrative leave by LAUSD, surrendered himself to federal authorities after he was indicted this week by a federal grand jury.
The two-count indictment charges Estrada with attempted sex trafficking of a child and use of the Internet to induce a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity.
The case against Estrada is the result of an undercover operation by the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, which includes representatives of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service. The Task Force was conducting an anti-sex trafficking operation in Artesia and posted an advertisement on the Craigslist website that was designed to attract individuals interested in engaging in commercial sex acts with minors.
“Protecting children from sexual exploitation means focusing our resources on all aspects of the industry that preys upon young people,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Prosecutors in my office who deal with sex crimes against children have a long history of targeting those who produce, distribute and possess child pornography. We also aggressively prosecuted pimps who prostitute minors and use physical violence to establish and maintain control over their victims. Now we are turning our attention to customers who seek out young prostitutes, because their demand fuels an industry that causes so much harm to so many young people.”
On April 20, Estrada responded to the advertisement via e-mail and subsequently engaged in a series of text messages with an undercover agent he thought was a 15-year-old girl, according to the indictment. Estrada agreed to pay $150 to engage in sex with the “girl.” In preparation for the encounter, Estrada purchased condoms. When he arrived at a gas station in Artesia for the encounter with the girl, Estrada had approximately $150 in his possession. He was taken into custody by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and subsequently released from county jail after posting bond.
“It’s deeply troubling when those sworn to protect our kids, are accused of an act that violates every tenet of the oath they pledged to uphold,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “The reality is that the defendants in child exploitation cases come from all walks of life and access to children is all too often the common denominator. The predators who’re brazenly stalking our children online need to know that HSI, together with its law enforcement partners, is working tirelessly to track you down and hold you accountable for your crimes.”
Estrada is being arraigned on the indictment in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
Both of the charges in the indictment carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and statutory maximum sentence of life.
President Barack Obama has declared April 2016 as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, during which “we recommit to giving every child a chance to succeed and to ensuring that every child grows up in a safe, stable, and nurturing environment that is free from abuse and neglect.”
Last month, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released the 2016 National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction (http://go.usa.gov/cuWMR). The strategy provides a comprehensive threat assessment of the nature and scope of the current dangers facing our nation’s children, including child pornography offenses, sextortion and live-streaming of child sexual abuse, child sex trafficking, child sex tourism and sex offense registry violations.