Phoenix ICE officers deport Mexican national wanted for sex trafficking minors

A Pima County man was sentenced Wednesday to 340 years in prison for the sexual exploitation of a minor under 15 years of age thanks, in part, to an investigation by HSI.

Contributed Article

PHOENIX – A Mexican national wanted in his native country for sex trafficking minors was handed over to Mexican law enforcement officials Tuesday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy ICE: Valentin Mendiola-Castaneda, 35, awaits to be transferred to Mexican authorities. He was wanted in Mexico for trafficking minors as sex slaves.

Valentin Mendiola-Castaneda, 35, was transferred to the custody of Mexico’s Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR) and Mexican immigration by deportation officers with ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). Mendiola was arrested in January by officers with ERO’s Fugitive Operations and special agents with ICE Homeland Security Investigations.

In addition to sex trafficking, the Mexican arrest warrant issued in June 2014 charges Mendiola- Castaneda with the aggravated sexual exploitation of minors. The charging document alleges Mendiola-Castaneda sexually exploited two young girls at hotels and residences in Toluca, Mexico, and participated in sexual acts with the minors.

“The removal of this sex trafficking suspect to face criminal charges in Mexico is the direct result of continued cooperation between ICE and our law enforcement counterparts in Mexico,” said Henry Lucero, field office director for ERO in Phoenix. “Foreign criminal fugitives who believe they can escape justice by fleeing to the U.S. will be apprehended and handed over to the proper law enforcement authorities.”

Relevant Department of Homeland Security databases indicate Mendiola-Castaneda has been repatriated to Mexico 11 times since 1998. He also has two federal convictions for entering the U.S. illegally and served prison time in both cases. ICE reinstated Mendiola-Castaneda’s prior removal order paving the way for Tuesday’s repatriation.

Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 1,700 foreign fugitives from the United States who were sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. In fiscal year 2016, ICE conducted 240,255 removals nationwide. Ninety-two percent of individuals removed from the interior of the United States had previously been convicted of a criminal offense.

ERO works with the ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Office of International Operations, foreign consular offices in the United States, and Interpol to identify foreign fugitives illegally present in the United States. Members of the public who have information about foreign fugitives are urged to contact ICE by calling the ICE tip line at 1 (866) 347-2423 or internationally at 001-1802-872-6199. They can also file a tip online by completing ICE’s online tip form.