News - McHenry County

McHenry man pleads not guilty to grooming, attempting to meet up with a ‘child’ in 2020 then fleeing police

Jose Luis Ponce-Garcia

A McHenry man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges alleging he drove to meet someone for sex who he “believed” was a child and then fled police officers who showed up at the pre-arranged meeting spot, according to police and court records.

The charges against Jose L. Ponce-Garcia, 40, of the 2600 block of Elm Oak Lane, date from February 2020.

He is charged with grooming, traveling to meet a minor and indecent solicitation of a child in one case and aggravated fleeing, speeding in excess of 35 mph over the limit and reckless driving in a second case, according to the indictments. He pleaded not guilty to all charges in both cases on Tuesday.

Grooming is a class 1 felony, which can carry a sentence of between four and 15 years in prison.

Ponce-Garcia, then 37, is accused of using a computer online service called Skout to seduce someone he thought was a 15 years old and then traveling to meet that person to engage in a sex act, according to the indictment and complaint.

The complaint alleges he traveled to a fast food restaurant on Richmond Road in McHenry to meet the person and engage in “unlawful sexual conduct.”

But when Ponce-Garcia arrived, he was met by police officers who had been contacted by a private organization whose members had been communicating with him and posing as the child, said the McHenry Police Department spokesman, Officer Michael Spohn.

The communication, sexual in nature, started on the application and then switched to text messages, Spohn said.

“He thought he was communicating with a minor girl and he was not,” Spohn said.

“The basis (of the communications) was that he was seeking some kind of sex from her,” Spohn said, adding that he was proposing a sort of “sugar daddy” or “friends with benefits” situation with a person he thought to be a child.

When police attempted to stop Ponce-Garcia’s vehicle, he fled, Spohn said. Police terminated the pursuit and contacted him later via text. Ponce-Garcia voluntarily came to the police department the following day and was arrested and charged, Spohn said.

In the second case, Ponce-Garcia is accused of fleeing police who gave audio and visual signals to pull over the 2009 Audi Coupe he was driving, according to the indictment. He also is accused of speeding more than 35 mph over the speed limit “with willful or wanton” disregard for public safety or property, according to the indictment.

Ponce-Garcia bonded out of county jail days after his arrested. He was to appear in court in July 2020 to be arraigned, but a warrant for failing to appear was issued instead, court records show.

It is unclear where he had been since before being arrested last week on a $75,000 warrant. Attempts to reach McHenry County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday were not successful.

He was released from jail on Tuesday after posting 10% of a $80,000 bond, according to the jail log. He is due back in court Feb. 28.