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Feds: Man groomed Indiana teen, paid Uber to drive her to New Jersey for sex

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A New Jersey man faces charges after being accused of paying Uber to drive a 15-year-old girl from Indiana to New Jersey to have sex with him.

Arnold Castillo, 22, of Paterson, New Jersey, is charged with enticement of a minor and interstate transportation of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity.

Beth White, president and chief executive officer of the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault & Human Trafficking, said, “It used to be potentially teachers, coaches, even faith leaders who are finding access to young people, but now anyone can get access to a young person on the internet.”

According to court documents, Castillo started communicating with the girl on social media in February. He sent her gifts and money with the goal of luring her to New Jersey to have sex with her. These tactics are called “grooming,” a process used by sex offenders to gain trust an alienate minors from their family and friends, federal prosecutors say.

“The grooming concept within sexual assault and sexual victimization is not new. What is new is the way the internet makes it easy,” White said. “Know what your young people are doing on social media. Monitor their phones, monitor their tablets and computers, make sure that you’re in a relationship with your young people that they can talk to you about things that are happening, not just online, but anywhere else.”

Court papers say Castillo enticed the girl to travel from Indiana to New Jersey around May 3. He then paid an Uber $500 in advance to pick her up and drive her across state lines and then paid the driver an additional $500 once she arrived, prosecutors say. White says more people need to take action and have accountability to stop these situations from unfolding.

“An Uber driver who picks up a young person and takes them out of state, what in the world?” White said. “The notion of trusting people … that’s the kind of terrible trauma that’s compounded when it’s a situation where someone is being groomed over a period of time.”

Investigators used data from the social media application that was used, and traced the girl to an address in Patterson, New Jersey. On May 11, they found the girl at Castillo’s home and brought her back to her mother. Police arrested Castillo on the same day.

If convicted, Castillo faces up to life in prison for each charge.

Help is available for victims of domestic violence. Below is a list of suggested resources on the Domestic Violence Network website:

  • Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence: icadvinc.org or call the 24-hour hotline at 800-332-7385
  • Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking: icesaht.org
  • The Julian Center: www.juliancenter.org
  • Indiana Child Abuse Hotline: www.in.gov; 800-800-5556
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: www.thehotline.org; 800-799-7233 or text START to 88788
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: www.rainn.org; 800-656-4673

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