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A 25-year-old Chula Vista man who pleaded guilty to soliciting sex from a minor has been sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison — the same as the age of his victim, whom he met through an anonymous chat application, authorities said.

Miguel Cervantes pleaded guilty earlier this year to attempted enticement of a minor after his arrest for trying to meet the 11-year-old girl near her home and middle school, federal prosecutors said. Instead, Chula Vista police learned of the chats through the victim’s mother, posed as the girl to set up a meeting and were waiting to arrest Cervantes when he arrived for the meet-up.

A federal judge sentenced Cervantes on Thursday in U.S. District Court to 11 years and four months in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release, during which time he will not be able to access the internet without supervision and is barred from contact with his victim and other minors. He also must register as a sex offender.

Cervantes was 24 years old in March of this year when he met the pre- teen girl on the anonymous mobile chat application “Candid,” assistant U.S. Attorney Janet Cabral said. In their first conversation, the girl told Cervantes she was only 11.

That didn’t stop Cervantes from asking her if she’d ever kissed a boy, starting sexually explicit conversations, soliciting nude and explicit photographs from the girl and sending his own nude photographs to her, Cabral said. Shortly after they began chatting on the application, they made plans to meet near her home, but Cervantes never showed up.

That wasn’t the case the second time they made plans to meet, Cabral said. But by that time, the girl’s mother had discovered the conversations and called police, and a Chula Vista detective took over the chat from the victim’s end.

“When Cervantes showed up for a meeting with the girl at a fast food restaurant near her home and middle school, officers were waiting for him,” Cabral said. “Cervantes admitted to the officers that he intended to meet the girl for sex.”

During sentencing, the victim’s mother said the conversations “stole her daughter’s innocence,” the prosecutor said.

“Dangerous predators often employ the internet as a tool to solicit and exploit vulnerable children,” Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson said in a statement. “Fortunately, in this case, a fully engaged parent alerted law enforcement agents, who quickly stepped in to apprehend (the) defendant and prevent an even worse tragedy from occurring.”

The case was investigated by the Chula Vista Police Department and the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a national network of federal, state and local police and prosecutorial agencies that work to combat online sexual exploitation of children.

Robinson said the case serves as a reminder of the importance that parents closely monitor their children’s internet activities.

—City News Service

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