Chicago Man Pleads Guilty to Coercion and Enticement of a Minor
BOSTON – A Chicago man has pleaded guilty to threatening and coercing a Massachusetts minor to engage in sexual conduct.
Ernesto Herrera, 33, of Chicago, Ill., pleaded guilty on Aug. 31, 2022 in federal court in Boston to one count of coercion and enticement of a minor. U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper scheduled sentencing for Dec. 21, 2022. Herrera was previously arrested and charged by criminal complaint in June 2021 and subsequently charged by an Information on July 26, 2022. He has remained in custody since June 2021.
“My office remains determined to protect the safety, innocence and wellbeing of our children, especially from the threat of online predators. Mr. Herrera used social media to target, threaten and rob a child of their innocence and, following the acceptance of Mr. Herrera’s guilty plea by the Court, he will be a convicted felon and a registered sex offender,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “In collaboration with our law enforcement partners, my office will continue our aggressive pursuit to hold predators like Mr. Herrera accountable. Those who seek to sexualize and harm our children will be identified and prosecuted – that is a promise.”
“Ernesto Herrera has admitted to using social media to target and manipulate a 16-year-old girl into providing him with sexually explicit images of herself. His deplorable conduct in this case underscores the urgent need for the FBI and our law enforcement partners to continue our efforts in protecting children from those who prey on them,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “In this case, a very brave child spoke up, and in doing so has prevented Mr. Herrera from victimizing others.”
In June 2020, Herrera threatened and coerced a Massachusetts minor via text message to make and send an image of the victim engaged in sexual conduct, among other things. Herrera threatened the minor that if she did not comply with his requests, videos of the minor would be leaked to her friends and the internet. Herrera also accessed the minor’s Snapchat account and, beginning in June 2020 and continuing through at least January 2021, over one thousand images and videos of the minor were sent from the minor’s Snapchat account to Herrera’s Snapchat account. Several of these files depicted child pornography. During a search of Herrera’s residence in Chicago he admitted to contacting the minor using a text messaging service and acknowledged that he knew the minor was being blackmailed by other people at the time that he communicated with her. Herrera confirmed that he received images of the minor engaged in sexual conduct, among other things.
The charge of coercion and enticement of a minor provides a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison, at least five years and up to a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
U.S. Attorney Rollins, FBI SAC Bonavolonta and Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Chicago Division made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Mackenzie Duane of Rollins’ Major Crimes Unit is prosecuting the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit https://www.justice.gov/psc.
Message from Executive Director Laura A. Ahearn, ESQ, LMSW: Please visit our website at www.crimevictimscenter.org for news, information and resources in your community.