City of Tonawanda police stopped a bus earlier this month and persuaded a 15-year-old runaway girl to get off before she could complete a journey to California where a convicted child sex offender was waiting for her, federal authorities said.
The California man had lured the girl through Internet communications, but he was arrested when an undercover officer took over the communications, federal authorities said.
Carlos Francisco Lopez, 28, of Los Angeles was arrested and charged with enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity and attempting to transport a minor across state lines to engage in sexual activity. He will be transported to Western New York to face the charges.
This is how federal prosecutors described the situation:
Police in the City of Tonawanda received a request Jan. 16 to conduct a welfare check on the girl, who was reported to have run away from home and gotten on a bus. Officers stopped the bus and located the girl who was a passenger. The girl told officers that she was running away from home and intended to travel to California to visit family, saying that her uncle had purchased the bus ticket for her.
The girl later revealed that she had met an unknown individual with the username “playfulchaos” on the messenger app Kik in an online group for runaway youth. In addition to discussing prospects of the girl running away, she and Lopez also discussed having sex, police said. The two continued to communicate on the Internet application Text Free and made plans for the girl to travel to California, according to the girl.
An undercover law enforcement officer posing as the underage victim continued to communicate with Lopez via text message and told Lopez that she would arrive in California at around 10 p.m. Jan. 19.
Authorities said Lopez instructed her to wait at the bus station and said he would send an Uber ride to get her. Lopez was arrested after the undercover officer sent Lopez a message alerting him that the bus had arrived and Lopez ordered the Uber.
Lopez in 2011 was convicted of a sexual offense against a child younger than 14 in the state of California, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. He is a registered sex offender who was released from prison in 2016 and is an active parolee, authorities said.
Lopez faces a maximum life prison sentence if convicted, federal authorities said.