Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of Illinois
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 22, 2021
Springfield Man Sentenced to Ten Years in Prison for Attempted Enticement of a Minor
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A Springfield, Illinois, man, Rafael Mercado Berrios, 42, of the 700 block of South Durkin Drive, was sentenced to ten years in prison, to be followed by ten years of supervised release, on October 20, 2021, for attempted enticement of a minor and use of interstate facilities to attempt to transmit information about a minor.
Mercado Berrios was convicted in June 2021 following a jury trial in which the United States presented evidence establishing that Mercado Berrios had used a mobile application to arrange to meet a person he believed to be a 15-year-old minor for sexual activity.
At Mercado Berrios’s sentencing hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Sue E. Myerscough found that he had also attempted to obstruct justice by requesting that a former girlfriend delete information from his computer and directing her not to speak to law enforcement agencies, as well as telling her what to say if she did choose to speak.
The statutory penalty for attempted enticement of a minor is ten years to life imprisonment. The statutory penalty for use of interstate facilities to attempt to transmit information about a minor is not more than five years imprisonment. Each count also carries a fine of up to $250,000.
The prosecution was the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Springfield Office, with the assistance of the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations; the Springfield Police Department; and the Illinois State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tanner K. Jacobs and Gregory K. Harris represented the government in the prosecution.
The case against Mercado Berrios was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a Department of Justice initiative led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
— Read on www.justice.gov/usao-cdil/pr/springfield-man-sentenced-ten-years-prison-attempted-enticement-minor
Human trafficking operation across 12 states leads to 102 arrests and 47 victims identified
Dean Welte August 27, 2021
DES MOINES, Iowa (KTIV) – A 12-state human trafficking operation this week has led to over 100 arrests and dozens of victims being identified by law enforcement.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, 102 arrests and 47 victims were identified as part of Operation United Front. Most of the arrests were made the night of Aug. 26 and into the morning of Aug. 27, with efforts being coordinated by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt says the operation used undercover law enforcement officers from federal, state and local agencies to arrange meetings with potential victims or posed as victims to identify buyers or traffickers.
In Iowa, law enforcement agencies say they executed 10 search warrants, identified five businesses involved in sex trafficking, made 11 arrests and seized a “large quantity of U.S. currency.”
Among the states that were part of the operation were Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.
“Human trafficking uniquely affects Iowa given our proximity to major metropolitan areas like Kansas City and Chicago and the intersection of two major interstate systems. As a result, we know human trafficking is happening in Iowa and that it occurs in a variety of settings,” said Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens. “Together we can prevent this from happening in our state, because even one victim is one too many.”
The Sioux City Police Department was also involved, assisting operations conducted in Nebraska by providing detectives to help support the sharing of intelligence and surveillance.
“We conduct sting operations to address human trafficking, but as a municipal law enforcement agency, we are limited in our range to our jurisdiction of Sioux City. As this is an issue that affects the tri-state region of Siouxland, this provided us a unique opportunity to work in partnership with Nebraska and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate a crime that affects our entire community,” stated the SCPD in a statement to KTIV.
Nebraska law enforcement conducted sex trafficking operations in three locations, including Scottsbluff, Kearney and South Sioux City. During which, among other arrests, a man was arrested for seeking to purchase sex acts with a 15-year-old girl who was actually an undercover police officer.
While in South Dakota, authorities conducted their operation during this month’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
The other nine states part of the operation were Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.