A former Chicago resident who has been the subject of a global manhunt since February of 2009 was arrested last week at O’Hare International Airport without incident by special agents assigned to the Chicago FBI’s Innocent Images Task Force (IITF) after arriving on a flight from San Salvador. The arrest was announced today by Robert D. Grant, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Chicago Office.
Francisco Mejia, age 26, whose last known address was 4318 North Albany in Chicago, was originally charged by information in December of 2008 with possession of child pornography. The charges were superseded in August of 2010 by a federal grand jury indictment, with Mejia charged with one count of distribution of child pornography, eight counts of possession of child pornography, and one count of failure to appear, all of which are felony offenses.
Mejia was first identified by undercover agents working online as a possible distributor of child pornography. A search of his residence was conducted in October 2006, at which time two personal computers and two CDs were discovered that contained numerous images of minor children in sexually explicit positions and acts. After being charged, Mejia was released on bond but failed to appear at a scheduled court hearing in February 2009, at which time a warrant for his arrest was issued.
Investigation by IITF members tracked Mejia to his native San Salvador. Through contact with an intermediary, Mejia eventually agreed to return to Chicago, at which time he was arrested.
Mejia appeared on Thursday, June 28, before Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez in Chicago, at which time he was formally charged. Mejia was ordered held without bond, pending his next scheduled court appearance, and will be housed at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Chicago. If convicted of the charge filed against him, Mejia faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ incarceration to a maximum of 20 years.
The FBI’s Innocent Images initiative was established in 1996 and is part of a nationwide effort to combat the manufacture, distribution, and possession of child pornography. At present, there are 43 separate IITFs in various FBI offices around the country that are investigating similar cases.
The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt and that all defendants in a criminal case are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.