A federal grand jury has returned charges against an illegal immigrant living in Passaic County who authorities said abducted and raped a 15-year-old Paterson girl he took to Ohio.
Juan Carlos Morales-Pedraza, a 33-year-old Ecuadorian national who’d been deported in 2010 but snuck back into the U.S., abducted the girl this past April and transported her to Ohio “with the intent that she engage in sexual activity,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.
A superseding indictment returned by a grand jury in U.S. District Court in Newark charges Morales-Pedraza with kidnapping, illegal transportation of a minor and illegally re-entering the country as a removed alien, Carpenito said Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler ordered the he remain held without bond after Morales-Pedraza entered a not-guilty plea during his first court appearance on Tuesday.
A state trooper pulled over Morales-Pedraza’s 2013 Nissan Sentra on westbound Route 80 in Lucas County on April 16 for failing to yield, the Ohio Highway Patrol said at the time.
Detectives determined that Morales-Pedraza “forced the girl to perform acts on him” and was taking her to Chicago, the agency said in a statement.
Neither he nor the girl spoke any English, authorities said at the time.
Troopers suspected and later confirmed that he’d sexually assaulted the girl – whom they discovered had been reported missing -- after abducting her in Paterson, the highway patrol said.
The girl was brought to a local hospital before being reunited with her family.
New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency was involved in the case.
Carpenito also 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.
Handling the case for the government is Assistant U.S. Attorney Francesca Liquori of Carpenito’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force in Newark.
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