Thursday, May 29, 2008

Man who took Belleville girl to Florida could face life in prison

U.S. charges lodged for pickup of girl, 15

The 49-year-old Florida man who police said picked up a 15-year-old girl from Belleville East High School and drove her to Florida could face up to life in prison if convicted of federal charges filed Friday.

Heriberto Torres-Rodriguez, of Opa-Locka, Fla., was charged with transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent of engaging in sexual activity, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. He also was charged with traveling in interstate commerce for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Conviction on each count also carries a $250,000 fine.

The girl's father reported her missing Tuesday when she didn't return home from Belleville East High School.

Police said Torres-Rodriguez rented a car May 19 in Miami and then drove to Belleville to pick the girl up from the school parking lot Tuesday morning. He returned the vehicle to the rental dealer at 3:04 p.m. Thursday. Police said they were able to get the rental vehicle's description and the time Torres-Rodriguez picked the girl up from the school's video surveillance.

Florida authorities arrested him Friday in Opa-Locka, Fla., where the two were found with another man, whose identity was not released.

The Associated Press reported Friday that the two met in Puerto Rico about a year ago. Belleville police reported Thursday they met on the Internet.

The girl's father has said FBI agents visited his home in Belleville and seized his daughter's personal computer.

Torres-Rodriguez is expected to return to the metro-east for proceedings on the charges.

As of Sunday afternoon, the girl had not returned home. A woman who answered the phone Tuesday night at the girl's father's home in Belleville did not wish to comment on whether the girl had come home since then.

Contact reporter Rickeena J. Richards at or 239-2562.

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