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ICE Officers Arrest Child Sex Assault Suspect At DIA After Denver Jail Released Him

DENVER (CBS4) -- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel arrested a Honduran man at Denver International Airport on Sept. 4, months after the man had been arrested on sexual assault on a child charges by Denver law enforcement. He was subsequently released from jail against the wishes of the federal agents.

Celin Villeda-Orellana, 33, was in the country illegally, according to an ICE spokesperson. And not for the first time.

When asked if the suspect was attempting to board a plane or leave the country from DIA, an ICE spokesperson refused to elaborate on the circumstances of his arrest.

It's another case in an ongoing legal wrestling match -- in one corner, federal immigration officials who often rely on local jails; in the other, city governments limiting their involvement with federal immigration enforcement.

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Villeda-Orellana first entered the U.S. illegally in April 2007 through the Arizona border town of Nogales, ICE stated in a press release. He was arrested the same month in Chicago and deported back to Honduras. He re-entered the U.S. illegally again in November 2018 and was arrested in Rio Grande, Arizona. But days later, while awaiting deportation in San Antonio, Texas, he was released.

The reason?

He was deemed part of a family unit. Specifically, he had a child with him.

ICE now believes it was a fraudulent relationship. The agency has encountered 760 children since May 2019 who entered the U.S. as part of a family unit and then return Central America shortly after.

Celin Villeda-Orellana Arrest Photo (Denver dA)
Celin Villeda-Orellana following his Denver arrest in February. (credit: Denver District Attorney's Office)

Villeda-Orellana was then arrested in February of this year by Denver PD and charged with six felony counts relating to sexual assault on a child. Details in the case are scant, and it's not known if the child victim in the case is the same one in his company in San Antonio.

Regardless, online records show that Villeda-Orellana posted a $5,000 bond two weeks after his arrest - despite ICE asking for him to be detained for their purposes days earlier.

"The document requested the DJC (Denver Justice Center) hold Villeda-Orellana briefly until ICE officers could pick him up prior to any planned release," ICE stated in its press release. "DJC declined the detainer Feb. 21 and Villeda was released back into the community to re-offend."

"How is it justice to the victims to release these types of criminals to the streets?" said John Fabbricatore, a field office director for ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations in Denver. "It is unconscionable to allow people like Villeda to be released and not honor our detainer while he potentially re-enters the community to harm another child."

Presented with ICE's comments, the Denver Sheriff's Department responded with a statement:

"The Denver Sheriff Department (DSD) legally cannot honor civil 'detainer' requests from ICE unless they are accompanied by a criminal warrant issued by a judge. Denver does promptly respond to requests from ICE for notification when individuals are released. Pursuant to the Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act, when the Denver Sheriff Department receives a request for notification from ICE, DSD faxes ICE notification of release when the individual enters into the release process. It is the responsibility of ICE to arrive at DSD prior to release and take the individual into custody.
In the case of Celin Villeda-Orellana, the ICE detainer did not include a criminal warrant from a judge. We faxed the request for notification to ICE Feb. 21, 2020 at 8:28 p.m. and Celin Villeda-Orellana was released at 10:48 p.m."

Villeda-Orellana's sexual assault case was closed in July. The Denver District Attorney's Office did not respond to CBS4's questions about the closure.

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To combat the problem of children being used to claim family unit status for illegal immigrants, ICE created Operation Noble Guardian last year. It was operatives from Noble Guardian who found Villeda-Orellana at DIA earlier this month and took him into custody.

"ICE focuses its limited resources, first and foremost, on those who pose the greatest threat to public safety and border security and does not target aliens indiscriminately," ICE stated in its press release announcing the arrest. "The agency conducts investigations and gathers intelligence on specific individuals for immigration enforcement. Targets are often those who were arrested on local criminal charges or have blatant disregard for U.S. immigration laws. The agency's arrest statistics clearly reflect this. Nationally, approximately 86 percent of all people arrested by ICE during fiscal year 2019 either had a criminal conviction, a pending criminal charge, had illegally re-entered the United States after being previously removed."

The conflict between the federal and local agencies doesn't end with Villeda-Orellana's latest arrest.

ICE plans to deport him, again, if it hasn't already. The Denver District Attorney's Office, though, confirms the sexual assault case has been re-opened. An arraignment is scheduled for Monday morning.


UPDATE: Villeda-Orellana is still in ICE custody as of Monday afternoon. His Denver arraignment has been re-scheduled for early November. An ICE spokesperson said the agency has not received a request for transfer from Denver.

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