Ocala, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Pedro Hernandez Ortiz (38, Mexico) has pleaded guilty to attempted online enticement of a minor. Ortiz faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 10 years, up to life, in federal prison. A sentencing date has not been set.
According to court documents, in August 2022, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office conducted an undercover operation for the purpose of identifying and apprehending individuals using the internet to exploit juveniles for sexual activity. As part of the operation, an FDLE agent created an undercover profile on the forum of a 14-year-old female named “Haley.” Ortiz soon messaged “Haley” and suggested that they meet to have sex. When “Haley” expressed concern about getting pregnant, Ortiz promised to use a condom. “Haley” eventually told Ortiz that she would sneak out of her house to meet him at a location in Lake County. When Ortiz arrived at the planned location, he was arrested and subsequently admitted to chatting with “Haley” and knowing that she was only 14 years old. He also confessed to traveling to meet “Haley” for the specific purpose of having sex with her.
This case was investigated by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Janette Swartzberg.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.