A Palm Desert man who arranged over the internet to meet what he thought would be a 13-year-old girl for sex was sentenced to four years of state prison Wednesday.
Marino Aaron Lopez, 31, faced six felony counts — two of oral copulation with a person 10 to 14 years old, and one each of contacting a minor with intent to commit a specific crime, arranging to meet with a minor at an arranged time and place, attempting sodomy with a child under 14 years old and attempting unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor under 16 years of age, according to court records.
He was additionally charged with two misdemeanor counts of possessing controlled substances and one of possessing drug paraphernalia. According to court papers, Lopez was in possession of an unspecified quantity of cocaine and methamphetamine.
On Dec. 20, 2022, Lopez pleaded guilty at the Larson Justice Center in Indio to arranging to meet with a minor at an arranged time and place. All other charges were dismissed against him.
Lopez was arrested April 20, 2021, in Palm Desert at the conclusion of an undercover operation orchestrated by the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, according to Sgt. Jose Tijerina of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Tijerina said law enforcement personnel posed as a 13-year-old girl on multiple social media platforms during the sting operation that ended up netting Lopez.
Court papers say the conversations took place over nearly two weeks, beginning April 8, 2021, and continuing until the day Lopez was taken into custody.
The suspect “initiated an online conversation with the goal of soliciting a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old minor” and arrived in the 72-900 block of Highway 111 at about 7 p.m. to meet her, but he was arrested, according to Tijerina.