Federal immigration agents arrested over the past two weeks 50 foreign nationals who remained in Maryland after being convicted of various sex offenses that should have resulted in deportation, authorities announced yesterday.
Officials with the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement also were seeking four more men who face deportation proceedings based on abuse convictions in Maryland. One of the men is a 25-year-old native of Guatemala convicted of sexually assaulting a mentally impaired 15-year-old girl in Baltimore County.
Allan J. Doody, special agent in charge of the agency's Baltimore field office, said the arrests in Maryland were part of a new nationwide effort to better protect children from pornographers, child prostitution rings and Internet stalkers.
"This is our first report card, if you will," Doody said at an afternoon news conference. "And you can expect more arrests in the future."
Dubbed "Operation Predator," the national initiative was announced last month by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in Washington. Ridge said the program's goal was to more quickly identify child predators, prosecute them and force them out of the country if they are subject to deportation.
For the first time, immigration authorities are allowed under the program to focus on immigrants serving time for sexual offenses and to make sure that they are subjected to deportation proceedings when their sentences are complete. Foreigners who are living legally in the United States can face deportation if they are convicted of felonies.
Previously, there was no system to ensure that legal aliens who were convicted of sex crimes would be handed over to immigration officials, and many of the convicted felons simply returned to their communities and resumed their life inside the United States.
To identify individuals in Maryland who were subject to deportation for committing crimes against children, Doody said agents cross-referenced felony conviction records kept by the Maryland State Police and the state Division of Parole and Probation with the immigration agency's records of legal aliens.
The resulting arrests included a Polish national who was a former Marine and who had been convicted of indecent exposure in Harford County, and a summer camp employee convicted of molesting three sisters, Doody said.
Officials did not identify the 50 men arrested. All of them are being held without bond and are expected to face deportation proceedings in the next 60 days.
Doody asked for the public's help in locating four other aliens convicted of sex crimes in Maryland. One was Carlos Omar Lucero, 25, the Guatemala native convicted in the Baltimore County assault. The three other men all were convicted in separate cases in Montgomery County on various charges.
Those three men were identified as Enco Lemus Cruz, 27, a native of Honduras; Manuel Antonio Ortega, 35, of El Salvador; and Miguel Angel Gomez, 47, also of El Salvador. Doody asked anyone with information about the four men to call 1-866-347-2423.