Truck driver busted at Navy base with teen migrant girl he picked up at a detention center for sex

Jackson Cote

When authorities in Rhode Island stopped a truck driver at a U.S. Navy base earlier this month, they discovered a missing teenage girl was in a sleeping compartment inside.

U.S. Border Patrol agents perform a water rescue and assist a migrant family in distress near Eagle Pass, Texas, August 20, 2019, CBP photo by Jaime Rodriguez Sr.

Investigators quickly discovered the driver of the truck, a 50-year-old Virginia man, was also wanted in Texas on child assault charges, according to federal authorities in Rhode Island.

That man, identified as David Romero Reyes, is now facing new charges in Rhode Island in connection with the discovery of the 15-year-old girl.

The truck driver is accused of driving the missing girl to Rhode Island for sex this month. He was detained by Naval Station Newport police on April 2. A routine background check was needed before allowing him to enter the Navy base, though. That check revealed he was wanted in Texas on a felony charge of assault of a child, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

Through their investigation, law enforcement said, the FBI and Rhode Island State Police discovered Reyes had “sexual contact” in several states with the 15-year-old girl, who was reported missing from her home in Virginia in July 2020. At the time, she was 14 years old, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Detained in state custody since his arrest, Reyes showed up in federal court in Providence, Rhode Island on Monday. The Stafford, Virginia resident was charged with transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity, prosecutors said.

According to authorities, the girl entered the United States as an unaccompanied minor in February 2020. She was then detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and placed in a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) facility.

Federal documents found in the tractor-trailer at the naval base earlier this month detailed how Reyes picked the girl up at a HHS-funded facility in Houston, Texas in May 2020. He is accused of identifying himself as her distant relative, authorities said.

The FBI and Rhode Island State Police determined Reyes was a long-time friend of the teen’s father who lives in El Salvador and is a distant cousin of the girl, according to prosecutors.

The girl lived in the Houston, Texas area with her mother and other relatives for several weeks after leaving the immigration detention center. The teen eventually left the state with Reyes, court documents said, and she began living in Virginia with one of his relatives.

“Shortly after moving to Virginia, when it became known by a family member that Reyes and the girl allegedly had a sexual relationship, the family member reported Reyes to law enforcement,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “Shortly thereafter, in July 2020, the girl left the home on a bicycle and was picked up nearby by Reyes. She was reported missing and had not been seen since.”

According to court documents, during the week, Reyes and the girl travelled together in trucks he drove. On weekends, they stayed at hotels or at an apartment he rented.

During interviews with law enforcement, authorities said, Reyes and the girl admitted to traveling together and engaging in sexual contact in multiple states. Investigators determined Reyes, using the name David Romero, traveled in or around Rhode Island on at least six days between Feb. 1 and April 2, the date of his arrest.

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