Public tips lead HSI special agents to her capture
Just hours after federal authorities made a national announcement appealing to the public for leads in a child pornography case with ties to the Los Angeles area, the “Jane Doe” suspect wanted in connection with that investigation was arrested outside an apartment complex in North Hills.
“Just after ICE’s nationwide plea for public assistance, five separate community tips led to the arrest of Jane Doe,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton. “This arrest would not have happened without the public’s help, and it demonstrates how much individual citizens can do to help law enforcement attack crime. The best way to protect innocent children from sex offenders is for law enforcement, educators, parents and concerned citizens to join forces and fight back.”
Letha Mae Montemayor, 52, was taken into custody without incident at approximately 7:30 p.m. Thursday by special agents with ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and officers from the Los Angeles Police Department. Montemayor was identified by both her facial appearance and the presence of known tattoos.
Montemayor’s arrest came less than 10 hours after HSI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California released photographs of an unidentified man and woman, known only as “Jane Doe” and “John Doe,” sought in connection with a child sexual exploitation case. At approximately 2 p.m. Thursday, HSI special agents received the first tip via a call in to the ICE Tip Line regarding “Jane Doe’s” possible identity. Subsequently, several additional corroborating leads were provided by the community. After cross-checking various databases and determining Montemayor was the likely suspect, investigators placed her under surveillance prior to making the arrest.
Montemayor is charged in a federal criminal complaint with one count of production of child pornography. She is expected to make her initial appearance in federal court Friday afternoon. The identity and whereabouts of the male suspect in the case, “John Doe,” remain unknown at this time, as does the identity of the victim. HSI officials underscore that the criminal investigation is ongoing.
“This significant development brings us one step closer to vindicating the victim and helping to regain some dignity for all victims of child exploitation crimes,” said U.S. Attorney André Birotte, Central District of California. “With the help of the media and concerned members of the public, we were able to quickly identify the woman allegedly involved in this child pornography case. We still want the public’s help in identifying John Doe and the victim in the disturbing series of images that continue to be circulated on the Internet.”
The criminal complaint alleges that “Jane Doe,” now believed to be Montemayor, was involved in the production of a widely circulated series of child pornography images taken about 11 years ago. Despite extensive investigative efforts, HSI special agents had been unable to determine the identity of the male and female suspects in those photographs. The pictures show an adult man and woman sexually molesting a girl who appears to be about 13. Forensic analysis of the images conducted by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) led investigators to conclude they were produced in the Los Angeles-area, specifically in the San Fernando Valley.
The child pornography images in this case were first discovered by HSI special agents in Chicago in 2007. The material was submitted to the Child Victim Identification Program operated by NCMEC, which determined the victim had not yet been identified and was not linked with other known child pornography images.
ICE’s search for John Doe and the two additional unknown suspects, wanted for questioning in other unsolved child pornography investigations, continues. Anyone with information or tips that can assist in these investigations is encouraged to call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or visit www.ICE.gov/tips. Tips may be reported anonymously.
The announcement of the case against John and Jane Doe was made in connection with HSI’s Operation Sunflower, a recently concluded enforcement action aimed at rescuing victims and targeting individuals who own, trade and produce child pornography. Operation Sunflower was conducted as part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form at www.ICE.gov/tips. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to NCMEC, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
HSI is a founding member and chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse. NCMEC is also a member of the VGT.