Fredrico Nanez Gomez ended nearly six months of court hearings by pleading guilty at his arraignment in 5th District Court Friday to the rape and sexual abuse of two Dixie Downs area girls.

The 22-year-old illegal alien, whose case sparked statewide controversy over illegal immigration enforcement in Utah, will be sentenced for the crimes Feb. 8.Charges of burglary and attempted rape were dropped as part of a plea bargain. Rape of a child, a first-degree felony, carries a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The sexual abuse charge carries a maximum 15-year-sentence.

Washington County Deputy Attorney Brent Langston said he was pleased with the agreement because Gomez will serve time for the most serious charges and spare the victims - ages 11 and 12 - of having to testify during a trial.

"We're sad the case actually had to happen," he said. "But we're pleased with the resolution."

The case attracted the attention of Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, and the CBS news magazine program, "48 Hours," after the county attorney's office publicized the fact that Gomez had been arrested but not deported only months prior to the rape in July.

County attorneys contend the sex crimes would have never occurred had Gomez been deported in January after pleading guilty to brandishing a knife during a fight.

Officials with the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services in Salt Lake City sayGomez was never deported because of a manpower shortage.

The Gomez case and several drug trafficking arrests in Salt Lake City prompted Bennett to contact Attorney General Janet Reno and ask for more INS agents.

Gomez was arrested in August for breaking into the 12-year-old's bedroom during the night and fondling her. DNA evidence later linked him to the July rape of the 11-year-old.