COOK COUNTY, IL – A Berwyn tattoo artist is facing multiple felony charges after he was arrested by Sheriff’s Police investigators posing as a minor with whom he had developed an online relationship and then arranged to meet for sex, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.
In January, Sheriff’s Police investigators assigned to the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit were placed in contact with a woman who noticed inappropriate messages on a social media app between her 15-year-old child and Gerardo Melendez, 32, of the 3600 block of Clinton Avenue in Berwyn. Melendez had previously met the victim when the mother took the minor to him for the minor’s first tattoo in November 2022.
With the mother’s consent, ICAC Unit investigators took over the conversation, posing as the victim. Over the next four weeks, an investigator continued the conversation with Melendez through text messages on a cell phone that he believed belonged to the minor. During these conversations, Melendez sent multiple sexually explicit texts and one sexually explicit photo to the investigator posing as the victim.
Melendez arranged to meet the minor outside a coffee shop in Lyons on Thursday, Feb. 23, at around 10:30 a.m. Upon arrival, he was instead met by ICAC investigators and taken into custody.
On Friday, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office approved felony charges of two counts of Indecent Solicitation of a Child, and one count each of Attempted Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse, Traveling to Meet a Child, Manufacturing Harmful Material, and Grooming.
Melendez is scheduled to appear for a bond hearing on the charges at the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building on Saturday Feb. 25.
The public is reminded that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty by the government in a court of law.