An illegal immigrant admitted Tuesday to coercion and enticement of a minor and to illegally reentering the United States, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.
Juan Carlos Morales-Pedraza, 34, of Paterson, New Jersey, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler to coercion and enticement of a minor and of illegally re-entering the United States after having previously been deported, according to a statement released by the Department of Justice.
Morales-Pedraza was deported in 2010, federal officials said.
Morales-Pedraza admitted that he is a citizen of Mexico and that he illegally entered the United States after having previously been deported.
In April 2019, Morales-Pedraza approached a 15-year-old girl in Passaic County, New Jersey. Two days later, after engaging in sexual intercourse with the victim, Morales-Pedraza and the victim left New Jersey and began traveling to Illinois.
An Ohio state trooper pulled the deportee over in Lucas County for failing to yield, authorities said at the time.
“There was that feeling that something wasn’t right,” Sgt. Ivan Nunez told WTOL11.
Police said Morales-Pedraza was ‘overly friendly’ during the stop and the girl lied about her age.
Troopers then discovered the girl had been reported missing.
Detectives determined that Morales-Pedraza “forced the girl to perform acts on him,” the Ohio Highway Patrol said in a statement.
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 has been detained since the incident, took a plea deal from the government rather than face trial.
As part of the deal, 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.
The count of coercion and enticement carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and mandatory restitution. The count of illegal re-entry carries a maximum prison sentence of two years and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler scheduled sentencing for July 14.
Follow Annaliese Levy on Twitter @AnnalieseLevy
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