Monday, June 25, 2012
An FBI special agent who tracked down a Hispanic pedophile and brought him to justice has spoken out about how cooperation from the victim’s family and dedication helped solve the horrific crime
Antonio Cardenas, 33, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison, and will be on supervised probation for the rest of his life, for repeatedly molesting a Utah boy, now 15, and filming the appalling acts. The sexual abuse began when the boy, who suffers from a learning disability, was encouraged to enroll in a mentoring program in 2004, after he was teased by his classmates. But Cardenas, who was appointed the seven-year-old’s mentor, instead molested and raped him. He continued to do so until 2009, which is when he fled to Mexico after images of him abusing the boy began circulating online. Cardenas had filmed the acts and passed them on to a friend who posted them on to the Internet, where they quickly became among the most popularly traded child pornography in the world. But the pedophile's apprehension was not easy. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children had seen the shocking footage in June 2009 and passed it on FBI special agent Jeff Ross, who was tasked with identifying the Hispanic man and young boy in the distressing film. But despite sending pictures of the boy to schools in Utah, reviewing Hispanics listed in the state’s sex offender database and canvassing hotels in the Las Vegas where some of the abuse had taken place, the agent was no closer to determining the identities of the two. But a breakthrough came in October 2009 after FBI agents in Los Angeles investigating a ring of pedophiles who traded images of child pornography were led to a Missouri man who had posted images of the Utah boy in question being abused. The man gave agents the victim’s name, and Cardenas’, whom he said had moved to Mexico. Utah authorities told Ross that the child had in fact tried to reach out about the abuse before, telling a school official in 2008 that Cardenas had forced him to watch dirty movies, but later retracting his statement. But when he was interviewed by Ross, the boy recounted the years of horrific abuse he had suffered at the hands of the man who was supposed to be his role model. His outraged mother told how the family had trusted Cardenas, letting him attend a family holiday and even take the boy on a trip to Las Vegas. He had also stayed in touch with the boy after returning to Mexico with weekly phone calls and emails. Ross had to find out a way of bringing Cardenas back to the United States and the boy’s mother had a plan. She said that she would pretend the family were throwing a surprise party for the boy, whose birthday is in early January, and invite Cardenas along. It was a difficult plan for the mother, as she was forced to talk to the man who had repeatedly abused her son as if nothing had happened, in the hopes that he would attend the party. Cardenas was arrested on the day of the surprise party in January 2010. Two months later, the agent was working with Interpol in Lyon, France, on child pornography cases when he came across footage of three boys being abused my a Hispanic man while they slept. Until then, Cardenas' family had refused to believe the allegations against him, but when they were shown the new footage to see if they recognised any of the children, they revealed it was Cardenas' own nephews. In February 2012, Cardenas admitted to travelling from Utah to Las Vegas to engage in a sexual act with a child under the age of 12, between June 2005 and July 2006. He also admitted to engaging in sexual acts with the child in Utah before and after the trip to Las Vegas. As part of his plea agreement, prosecutors dropped other counts of aggravated sexual abuse, production of child pornography and distribution of child pornography and agreed to recommend he spend 30 years, rather than life, in prison. But U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups said that given the age of the victim, and the abuse of his family's trust, he would have to add another five years.