Three men charged with prostitution, online solicitation of a minor in Mercedes
The Mercedes Police Department is urging parents to be extra vigilant about who their kids are interacting with online following the arrest of three men on charges of online solicitation and prostitution of a minor.
The Mercedes Police said just after midnight on Jan. 14, officers responded to a call from a 15-year-old girl asking for help.
Officers said they found Paulino Guerra Junior of Alton with the minor inside of a hotel. During the investigation, police discovered Guerra was not acting alone. Two other men, Mathew Ivan Mata of Weslaco, and Jesus Garcia of Mercedes, were also involved, police said.
All three men were charged with online soliciting of a minor, engaging in criminal activity and prostitution of a minor.
Mercedes Police Department Public Information Officer Lt. Frank Sanchez said Mata was in contact with the girl through social media. She was then picked up by Garcia, who then drove her to the hotel where Guerra paid the men.
Although this is not a problem unique to the Valley, Sanchez said it is something that police are seeing more often, now that kids are spending more time online.
Director of Clinical Services at South Texas Health System Behavioral Joseph Garcia said online predators engage young and unsuspecting victims, in most cases children, by first befriending them and relating to them as much as possible.
He said once predators build that trust, children can easily be exploited and become victims of online solicitation.
"You as a parent, you're the one who pays for that phone, you provide that phone, you provide that computer," Sanchez said. "Don't be afraid of going through that. It's for your child's safety, really."
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