A Troy Township Democratic official was charged with setting up a sex date with a 15-year-old boy and federal agents searched her house on suspicion she has been producing child pornography videos, police said.
Margarita Hernandez, 32, of 6901 Monmouth Drive on Joliet's far west side, was arrested about 3 p.m. Thursday and taken to the Will County jail on a warrant charging her with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
Hernandez had sex with a 15-year-old Chicago boy during a prearranged July meeting at her home, police said.
Hernandez shares that home with her boyfriend, 76-year-old veteran weekly newspaperman John Gabriel. Both Gabriel and Hernandez are precinct committeemen for the Troy Township Democrats.
An official with the Troy Democrats said Tuesday he believed Hernandez is Gabriel's granddaughter. But Gabriel confirmed she is his girlfriend.
Gabriel went on to claim his much-younger girlfriend was being framed in an attempt to get back at him for exposing corruption.
"This is all a setup," Gabriel said.
Gabriel said the frame was easy to spot "If you remember how some of the people reacted when I went after some of the crooked policemen and crooked politicians."
Gabriel said he suspects a Romeoville police officer he accused of once shooting at him was behind the setup, but declined to identify the supposedly dirty cop. Gabriel said it would all come out when his girlfriend goes to court.
"This is all a mechanism to try to get even with me," he said.
Hernandez's alleged sexcapade with the teen reportedly came to light after the boy's mother learned of the tryst and went to the Chicago police, who alerted the FBI and the Joliet police.
Joliet Police Chief Mike Trafton said FBI agents searched Hernandez and Gabriel's house for evidence that Hernandez recorded sex romps with minors and added that the federal investigation is still under way.
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FBI spokeswoman Joan Hyde could not immediately be reached for comment.
Joliet Detective Tizoc Landeros unraveled the case, but says he believes Hernandez has had sex with even more underage boys. He asked anyone with information about her—or anyone else—engaging in sex with minors to call him at 815-724-3035 or to alert detectives at 815-724-3020. Landeros said tipsters can also call Crime Stoppers of Will County at 800-323-6734.
Landeros said the teen was first introduced to Hernandez through a friend. The friend's mother is Hernandez's cousin, he said.
"We know that there's going to be more victims," Trafton said. "We have reason to believe that there are other boys involved as well that were victims."