Substitute teacher sentenced for extorting sexual images via social media | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

McALLEN, Texas — A 31-year-old Mission resident has been sent to federal prison for coercion and enticement of a minor, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Edgar Aaron Hernandez pleaded guilty March 31. He admitted to requesting nude images from numerous child victims via a social media platform and engaged in this conduct while at work. Hernandez also possessed over 1,000 images and videos of child sexual abuse across various platforms.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Hernandez to 120 months in prison with seven years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $3,000 in restitution to a known victim. During that time, Hernandez must comply with numerous requirements designed to restrict his access to children and the internet. He will also be ordered to register as a sex offender.

The court heard victim impact statements detailing the lifelong effects of fear and shame victims of coercion feel.

“With the ever-increasing access criminals have to communication platforms, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) must stay a step ahead of those who utilize the technology to exploit victims. The defendant in this case will serve the next 10 years in prison for his unfathomable acts,” said HSI San Antonio Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee. “This sentencing sends a powerful message to those who would prey on the innocent and serves as a reminder that HSI will unceasingly pursue child predators.”

“We leave our children with teachers on a daily basis because we trust them,” said Hamdani. “Hernandez breached that trust when he used his experience with children to abuse and exploit them. He extorted our most vulnerable to get what he wanted with no regard for their well-being or how his actions would affect them. But thankfully with this sentence, justice has forced this predator to exchange one piece of clothing for another: a teacher’s cape for an orange prison jumpsuit.”

“Today’s sentencing is a reminder that the Secret Service is committed to investigating electronic crimes involving child exploitation,” said U.S. Secret Service McAllen Resident Agent in Charge Brian Gibson. “The success in this case demonstrates the investigative capabilities of the Secret Service and the collaborative efforts with our law enforcement partners. Together we will continue pursuing these bad actors and protect the nation’s most vulnerable population.”

Between April 1 and April 4, 2022, a 13-year-old child reported that she sent nude images to a man in Texas named Edgar on a social media platform. He claimed to be 17 years old and threatened to disseminate them if she did not send him additional nude images.

Law enforcement identified the IP address and traced it to a residence in Mission associated with Hernandez.

On Dec. 5, 2022, authorities contacted Hernandez at Mission High School, where he was employed as a substitute teacher. He admitted he believed the child was 13 years old and that he solicited sexually explicit images and videos and threatened the victim when she refused to send more.

Hernandez also admitted to soliciting nude images and videos over the last two years from other minor children. If they refused, he threatened to expose them to their family and friends. Some of the minors told Hernandez they would commit suicide or harm themselves if he exposed them. Hernandez admitted that this did not bother him and would block the victim before seeking additional victims.

Law enforcement discovered approximately 1,000 videos and images of child exploitation on his online and social media accounts.

Hernandez will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

U.S. Secret Service conducted the investigation with assistance from the Springfield Police Department in Illinois and HSI’s Rio Grande Valley Child Exploitation Investigations Task Force.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexa D. Parcell and Cahal McColgan prosecuted the case, which was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative the Department of Justice launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. U.S. attorneys’ offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section leads Project Safe Childhood, which marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children and identifies and rescues victims. For more information about PSC, please visit the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood page.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

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