By Joe Johnson
A federal jury on Wednesday convicted a Winterville man of trying to entice a 14-year-old girl he “met” online into having sex.
The “girl” was actually an Athens-Clarke County detective who was hunting for child predators last summer as part of a multi-agency operation called “Operation End Game,” according to a news release issued by U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary.
Noe A. Villafuerte, 47, was convicted of attempted online enticement of a minor following a trial in U.S. District Court in Macon. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years up to a maximum term of life imprisonment, a maximum lifetime of supervised release, and registration as a sex offender for life. Sentencing has been scheduled for July 14.
"This predator was willing to victimize what he thought was a 14-year-old child; fortunately, he ran into the arms of law enforcement instead," Leary said. "Operation End Game was a highly successful law enforcement effort to protect children involving local, state and federal agencies collaborating through Georgia's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force."
According to court documents and testimony presented at trial, Leary said, Villafuerte was arrested as a result of "Operation End Game," a three-day proactive effort from July 25-27, 2019, centered in Athens, Georgia, to arrest adults communicating with children on-line and traveling to meet them for the purpose of having sex.
“During the online operation, an undercover detective posing as a 14-year-old girl placed an ad on an ‘escort’ website known to be used by human traffickers” Leary said.” Villafuerte responded to the ad and began communicating with the undercover agent on July 25. Villafuerte offered to pay the child $60 for sex in his vehicle and they agreed to meet at a Kroger in Athens on July 26. Villafuerte was arrested shortly before 5:00 p.m. in the parking lot after searching the store and lot for the child.”
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative by the U.S. Department of Justice to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse.