May 13, 2021
Carol Robinson

A Tarrant man is under arrest after authorities say he tried to solicit a juvenile for sex, one of handful of men arrested by Homewood police in recent months in ongoing operations targeting sex crimes, particularly those against children.
Gabriel Jesus France-Mendez, 20, was booked into the Jefferson County Jail earlier this week – on Tuesday – on charges of traveling to meet a child for an unlawful sex act and child solicitation by computer – electronic solicitation for a child.
Details of his alleged crimes have not been made public, but reportedly happened on May 10. He has since been released after posting $90,000 bond.
Homewood police Sgt. Eric Marquard said the arrest of Mendez is part of continuing efforts by the department’s Special Investigations Unit, which works with the FBI’s Crimes Against Children Task Force. The Homewood task force focuses on investigations that are longer in scope, such human trafficking and crimes against children.
Several of the investigators joined the FBI task force and once trained, began their child enticement initiatives. The operations, authorities emphasize, are undercover stings.
“No Homewood children were in actual danger at any time,’' Marquard said.
Those arrested so far, in addition to Mendez, since April are: Roger Done Jones, 44, of Huntsville; Billy Trevor Stevens, 26, of Harvest; Jacob Harley Scoggins, 30, of Oxford, and Taylor Earl Moates, 33, of Birmingham. The charges range from transmitting obscene material to a child to traveling to meet a child for an unlawful sex act. In one case – Jones’ – bond was set at $750,000.
“All of these people are charged with the same thing but how we found them is a little different in each case,’' he said..
Marquard said he doesn’t know of any other local police agency targeting enticement crimes, and said it is needed. “We’re trying to be more in the times, more sensitive to the desires of the community,” he said, “working less street dope and more big investigations that require more technical expertise and have more a direct impact the things people care about like kids.’'
Sgt. John Carr said the unit’s focus changed when Homewood police began targeted enforcement of human trafficking and some of the city’s motels and hotels. Those kinds of investigations, he said, morphed into some of the child enticement cases now being investigated.
“We’ve done a bunch of human trafficking investigations and recovered a number of victims,’' Marquard said, adding that they’re also providing intel to the FBI and law enforcement in other states. “A lot of these girls and kids are on a circuit. If we catch them in Homewood, it’s because they just came from Charlotte or are on their way to Little Rock, or something like that.”
As a result of the human trafficking cases, investigators became aware of a number of dark websites, and even some regular websites, with concerning activity. “We started basically getting solicited,’' Marquard said. “Some of these people were solicitating us for things other than what you would call the bread-and butter-prostitution. Their interests were considerably younger.”
He said they plan to continue to target and arrest as many child predators as often as they can.
“I’ve been doing this for 28 years and the stuff that people are into…I did not think I could be surprised,’' he said. “But I was wrong.”


Message from Executive Director Laura A. Ahearn: Please visit our website at www.crimevictimscenter.org for news, information and resources in your community.

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