HOMESTEAD, Fla. – A former youth care worker at an emergency influx shelter that has since closed in Homestead was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison for attempting to coerce and entice an unaccompanied alien minor to engage in illicit sexual activity.
Merice Perez Colon, 35, of Homestead, was also sentenced to 50 years of supervised release following her conviction, U.S. Department of Justice officials announced on Wednesday.
"The U.S. Attorney's Office and our law enforcement partners stand united against child exploitation and abuse," Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg said in a statement. "Any individual who victimizes unaccompanied alien minors or any other children, who are among society's most vulnerable victims, can look to this sentencing and see they will face severe consequences within the federal criminal justice system."
Prosecutors said the shelter where Perez Colon worked provided services to unaccompanied alien children in the U.S.
Prosecutors said Perez Colon sent and received explicit video and images with children she met at the shelter.
"Perez Colon held a position where she was entrusted with providing care for unaccompanied minors -- a trust she violated by sending inappropriate material to her victims," said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Mark Selby. "Her behavior is indefensible; and it only reaffirms that joint law enforcement initiatives which target these types of offenders are the best way to ensure they are captured, and held accountable for their illegal and harmful behavior."