Crime

Tri-Citian going to prison for trying to pay for sex with 11-year-old

Marco A. Celis Hernandez pleaded guilty in Benton County Superior Court on Wednesday to a charge of attempted first-degree child rape, stemming from a child sex sting a year ago.
Marco A. Celis Hernandez pleaded guilty in Benton County Superior Court on Wednesday to a charge of attempted first-degree child rape, stemming from a child sex sting a year ago. Tri-City Herald File

A Richland man caught in a child sex sting was sentenced to prison Wednesday, a day after a Pasco man caught in the same sex sting was found guilty by a Benton County jury.

Marco A. Celis-Hernandez, 22, of Richland, was ordered to serve a minimum of five years and nine months in prison by Judge Sam Swanberg in Benton County Superior Court.

After serving the minimum term, the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board will decide when he can be released based on his risk to community safety.

Celis-Hernandez previously pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted child rape as part of a plea agreement that included dropping a charge of commercial sex abuse of a child, said Deputy Prosecutor Diana Ruff.

Last summer he agreed to pay $75 for sex acts with an 11-year-old girl after answering an advertisement by an undercover officer. The ad said a mother liked to watch men have "taboo" fun with her kids, according to prosecutors.

Celis-Hernandez at one point said he wasn't sure that the arrangement worked. But then he clarified that he was interested after an undercover officer said this wasn't for him, according to the prosecution.

He was arrested after walking into the fictitious mother's home with enough cash to cover the transaction, court documents said.

He was one of 26 men, most of them living in the Tri-Cities, who were caught in the "Net Nanny" sex sting roundup last summer.

The operation was led by the state patrol's Missing and Exploited Children Task Force, with 45 local, state and federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors participating.

On Tuesday, the second of two trials so far related to the sting operation ended with a jury finding Douglas V. Arbogast, 71, of Pasco, guilty of attempted first- and second-degree child rape. Sentencing is set for July 25.

In May a jury convicted Thomas A. Swarers , 70, of two counts of attempted first-degree child rape. Superior Court Judge Bruce Spanner sentenced him to prison for at least nine years.

Annette Cary; 509-582-1533
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