Suspect is currently detained in Alabama
By Chris Fish
BREVARD -- It was a Central Florida online ad, promising a good time for males, looking to travel and meet gorgeous women that first caught the eye of an undercover Brevard County agent nearly a year ago.
"The message said something along the lines of, 'Are you a male looking to travel to a great place and meet sexy women and stay in five star hotels?'" said Maj. Tod Goodyear of the Brevard County Sheriff's Office. "Our agent responded and asked what types of opportunities were available."
In responding, the undercover agent, who is also a member of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations Task Force, began a correspondence with Patrick Minga, a 50-year-old resident of Cape Coral. That's when authorities said that Mr. Minga promised the undercover agent the opportunity to engage in illicit sexual conduct with underage girls in Ecuador.
Authorities said that Mr. Minga indicated that, for a fee, he could facilitate lodging, transportation, meals and unlimited access to underage girls from Ecuador and Colombia, with some as young as 13, all located at a sex-ring operation in Quito, Ecuador.
According to a 2010 U.S. State Department report, many parents of neighboring countries will send their children to Ecuador to earn money, often leading to the children being sent to forced-labor camps.
According to the report, child sex tourism occurs mostly in urban areas and tourist destinations, such as the city of Tena and the Galapagos Islands.
"We were aware (that Ecuador) was one of the hot spots for (sex crimes)," Maj. Goodyear said.
The report stated that the government of Ecuador does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, with many government law enforcement efforts not sufficiently addressing forced labor and sex trafficking crimes involving adults, or trafficking-related complicity of some local government officials.
With this in mind, Maj. Goodyear said the department compiled enough information to make an arrest, but there was a problem: Mr. Minga was out of the country.
"We had a deposit ready for the trip (to Ecuador) when ICE advised us that he was crossing over into the states," he said. "You have to weigh the dangers against what you may accomplish. When you're dealing with unfamiliar territories, it's a little dicey. It could have been a set up on his part, so the risk was not worth our people getting hurt."
On March 2, 2014, Mr. Minga traveled from Ecuador to the United States, authorities said.
Brevard County Sherriff's Office and ICE/HSI agents subsequently arrested Mr. Minga in Huntsville, Ala., where he is currently being detained.
Maj. Goodyear said he is unsure, at this time, when Mr. Minga will be brought back to the state of Florida, as federal agents are now handling the investigation.
He said it is also uncertain, at this time, how many young women are and were used in the operation, along with how long Mr. Minga was running it, but authorities were able to obtain a warrant to search his personal computer, which may shed some clues and help construct a timeline.
"Anytime you can arrest a person who is actively involved in exploiting a child for a relationship with an adult, it (is always a victory)," Maj. Goodyear said. "I don't know if someone will take over for him, but authorities in Ecuador are looking at all assets used (in the operation). The hope is that it will stop more children from being victimized."