A deportee who'd been living illegally in Paterson after sneaking back into the country admitted Tuesday that he raped a 15-year-old city girl whom he convinced to travel out of state with him, federal authorities said.
Juan Carlos Morales-Pedraza, a 34-year-old Mexican citizen, also pleaded guilty via video conference with a U.S. District Court judge in Newark to illegally re-entering the United States.
The Ecuadoran-born Morales-Pedraza, who’d been deported in 2010, approached the girl in April 2019, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig said.
After having sex with her, he took the girl with him on a planned trip to Chicago, Honig said.
They never made it that far.
An Ohio state trooper pulled the deportee's 2013 Nissan Sentra over on westbound Route 80 in Lucas County for failing to yield, authorities said at the time.
Detectives determined that Morales-Pedraza “forced the girl to perform acts on him,” the Ohio Highway Patrol said in a statement.
Neither the girl – who’d been reported missing – nor Morales-Pedraza spoke any English, troopers said.
The girl was brought to a local hospital before eventually being reunited with her family, authorities in New Jersey said.
Morales-Pedraza was also brought back to New Jersey, where a grand jury in U.S. District Court in Newark indicted him on charges of kidnapping, illegal transportation of a minor and illegally re-entering the U.S. as a removed alien.
Morales-Pedraza, who’d been held ever since, took a deal from the government rather than face trial.
As part of the agreement, federal authorities dropped the kidnapping and illegal transportation charges, allowing Morales-Pedraza to plead guilty to coercion and enticement of a minor and re-entering the country.
U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler scheduled sentencing for July 14.
Deportation proceedings were expected to follow at some point, although it was initially unclear whether this would be before or after a federal prison term was served.
Honig credited special agents with the FBI Newark’s Child Exploitation Human Trafficking Task Force, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office’s Sexual Investigations Unit and investigators with the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Lake Township Police Department in Lake Township, Ohio, with the investigation leading to the plea, secured by Assistant U.S. Attorney Francesca Liquori of her Organized Crime and Gangs Unit.
New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency also was involved in the case.
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