WASHINGTON – Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales commemorated National Missing Children’s Day by honoring law enforcement and citizens nationwide for their valiant efforts to recover missing and exploited children at a Department of Justice (DOJ) ceremony today. The Attorney General was joined at the ceremony by John E. Potter, Postmaster General and CEO, United States Postal Service, to issue a new AMBER Alert stamp and by Steve Largent, CEO and President of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) - The Wireless Association to announce new public service announcements about wireless Amber Alerts.
"Today, we honor all those who have worked hard to protect our Nation's children and to prevent future tragedies," said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. "They have uncovered sexual exploitation rings, located the predators hiding in the dark recesses of the Internet, and expanded our use of the AMBER Alert system to help recover abducted children. Most importantly, these heroes have diligently and tirelessly pursued missing children, in order to bring them home to the parents who love them." http://www.ctia.org/ Attorney General Gonzales honored 12 law enforcement officers for their efforts to help recover missing and exploited children.
National Missing Children’s Law Enforcement Awards: *Special Agent James T. Minor, a State department law enforcement officer based at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, received an award for the recovery of 6-year-old Zachary Jay who had been abducted to Thailand by his non-custodial mother.
*Sgt. Michael Hall from Lake Worth, Fla. Police Department received an award for the recovery of missing 8-year-old Lachele Nance, who had been abducted and abandoned in a secluded landfill.
*Lt. John Arndell of Lyon County, Nev. and FBI Special Agent John G. Ginocchio received awards for recovering 8-year-old Lydia Rupp who had been abducted and taken to Mexico.
National Exploited Children’s Law Enforcement Awards:
*Detective Kevin Weins of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office and Special Agent Michael Prado of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Fresno, Calif. received awards for the capture of Mark McGarry and Jeffrey Yingst for child molestation and distribution of child pornography.
*Sgt. Chris Hunt of the Indiana State Police and ICE Special Agent J.Tom Rothrock from Indianapolis received awards for the capture of Charles Johnson Jr., who was charged with child molestation and the production of child pornography.
*Pennsylvania State Trooper David E. Olweiler and IRS Special Agent Christopher D. Kegerreis from Pennsylvania, FBI Intelligence Analyst Jamie Konstas from Washington, D.C. and FBI Special Agent Mike Beaver from Oklahoma City received an award for dismantling a child-prostitution and trafficking ring.
The Attorney General acknowledged the work of Special Agent Flint Waters with the Attorney General’s Special Commendation Award for his efforts to combat Internet crime against children. Special Agent Waters heads the Wyoming Internet Crime Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) also awarded Special Agent Waters with a Law Enforcement Leadership Award. Now numbering 46, the Justice Department-funded ICAC task forces are on the front lines addressing computer facilitated child sexual exploitation through aggressive investigations, prosecutions, computer forensics and community outreach nationwide.
The Attorney General praised seven Justice Department components for responding to his challenge issued in January, on the tenth anniversary of the abduction of Amber Hagerman, to join the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) in a pilot program to receive AMBER Alerts in the Washington, D.C. area through their e-mail system. The employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Bureau of Prisons, the United States Marshals Service, the Justice Management Division and the Executive Office for the United States Attorneys will now regularly receive e-mail AMBER Alerts to assist in the search for abducted children.
The first-ever commemorative AMBER Alert stamp will be available nationwide today. A concurrent stamp issuance ceremony occurred today at the City Hall in Arlington, Texas, where Amber Hagerman lived and for whom AMBER Alert is named. J. Robert Flores, Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Susan Plonkey, Vice President for Customer Service, U.S. Postal Service; and Donna Norris, the mother of Amber Hagerman, participated in the public event for north Texas area citizens.
The Department of Justice today joined the Advertising Council, NCMEC and The Wireless Foundation to launch a public service advertising campaign to raise awareness about Wireless AMBER Alerts and to encourage wireless subscribers to sign up for Wireless AMBER Alerts to aid in the search for abducted children.
Regina Schofield, Assistant Attorney General for OJP and National AMBER Alert Coordinator, presented the AMBER Alert Citizen Awards to Agatino Amoroso of Cooper City, Fla. for his assistance in the recovery of a 17-year-old Florida teenager. Awards also went to Chastity Angell and her husband Mike Butcher of Ivins City, Utah for their help in recovering two boys who had been abducted.
AMBER Alerts have saved the lives of more than 265 children since the program began in 1996. In 2001, only four states had statewide AMBER Alert plans. In 2005, the Department of Justice met its goal having statewide AMBER Alert plans in place in all 50 states. The Justice Department is now working with Canada and Mexico to have plans in place in case children are abducted across our northern or southern borders, and in July, the Justice Department will invite the Native American community to a conference on AMBER Alert to discuss the use of this tool in Indian country.
The National Courage Awards were awarded to Mickenzie Smith of West Haven, Utah and to Stephanie Quackenbush of Albany, NY, for their bravery in fighting off their abductors and helping law enforcement to find their abductors
The winner of the annual national Missing Children’s Day Art contest winner was Catherine M. Braun, a fifth grader at Our Lady of the Snows School in Eugene, Mo. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia participated in the contest this year.
NCMEC awarded their National Volunteer of the Year award to Khaliah Ali, of Philadelphia, for her tireless efforts to promote missing and exploited children’s issues.
The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice and assist victims. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General and comprises five component bureaus and an office: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and the Office for Victims of Crime, as well as the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed strategy and OJP’s American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Desk. More information can be found at 202-307-0703.
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U.S. Department of Justice 2006 National Missing Children's Day Awards National Missing Children’s Law Enforcement Award: For the Recovery of Zachary Jay
*Special Agent James T. Minor, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Bangkok, Thailand
On May 15, 2005, Special Agent James T. Minor of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security in Bangkok, Thailand, learned that 6-year-old Zachary Jay had been abducted from San Antonio, Texas. Minor discovered that Jay’s non-custodial mother, Dorothy Toon, and stepfather, Nathan Offerman, had taken Jay to Chiang-Mai, Thailand, where they were staying in a hotel. Minor quickly obtained an arrest warrant for passport fraud and interference with child custody, and asked the U.S. Embassy to revoke Toon’s passport. Minor accompanied Thai officials to the hotel, secured Zachary’s safety, and presented Toon with an arrest warrant. Just 10 days after Minor began work on the case, Zachary returned to Texas and was reunited with his father.
National Missing Children’s Law Enforcement Award: For the Recovery of Lachele Nance
*Sergeant Mike Hall, Lake Worth Police Department, Lake Worth, Florida
On May 22, 2005, 17-year-old Milagro Cunningham of Lake Worth, Florida, called 911 to report that five unknown white men had entered an apartment where he was staying, owned by Lisa Taylor and snatched Lachele Nance, Taylor’s 8-year-old god-daughter. Cunningham told police that he had run after the men and watched them drive away in a brown station wagon. Immediately, police established a command post and issued a statewide AMBER Alert. Investigators began to search the area for Lachele Nance. Sergeant Michael Hall of the Lake Worth, Florida Police Department arrived at the scene on his day off to help with the search and was assigned to examine a secluded landfill nearby. When he opened a recycling bin, Sgt. Hall noticed a child’s hand and foot under a pile of rocks and concrete blocks. To his amazement, the child was Lachele Nance who was still alive. Once she was free, Nance told police that Cunningham had choked her and thrown her into the dumpster. Cunningham was apprehended and is awaiting trial.
National Missing Children’s Law Enforcement Award: For the Recovery of Lydia Rupp
*Lieutenant John R. Arndell, Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, Silver Springs, Nevada
*Special Agent John A. Ginocchio, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Reno, Nevada
On July 22, 2005, Carmen Bauer of Fernley, Nevada, called police, stating that her 8-year-old daughter, Lydia Rupp, had been missing since that afternoon. Bauer stated that her 47-year-old roommate and friend she had met three months earlier at church, Fernando Aguero, and Aguero’s car were also missing. Lieutenant John R. Arndell of the Lyon County, Nevada Sheriff’s Office and Special Agent John A. Ginocchio of the FBI immediately called NCMEC. Lt. Arndell sent descriptive information to area law-enforcement agencies and generated posters of Aguero and Rupp. Special Agent Ginocchio determined that Aguero had fled with Rupp to Mexico and coordinated federal agents along with members of the California Highway Patrol and Mexican Federal Police to plot Aguero’s exact location. Acting on a tip from NCMEC that a child matching Lydia’s description had been spotted in a hotel in Puerto Nuevo, Mexico, Lt. Arndell and Special Agent Ginocchio arrested Aguero and reunited Lydia with her mother. Aguero was tried and sentenced to 17 years in a Mexican federal prison.
National Exploited Children’s Law Enforcement Award: For the Capture of Mark McGarry and Jeffrey Yingst
*Detective Kevin Wiens, Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, Fresno, California
*Special Agent Mike Prado, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Fresno, California.
In January of 2005, Special Agent Mike Prado of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Fresno, California received a tip from NCMEC’s CyberTipline that Mark McGarry was uploading child pornography to e-mails. Special Agent Prado and Detective Kevin Wiens of the Fresno County, California Sheriff’s office executed a search warrant for McGarry’s home and found evidence that he was molesting a 12-year-old girl whom he had coached in softball. McGarry confessed to sexually abusing the child and to trading images of child pornography via e-mail. McGarry was arrested and has since been held without bond. Special Agent Prado and Detective Wiens also discovered that the main purveyor of McGarry’s pornography was a man named Jeffrey Yingst, the owner of a toy store and hobby shop in Pennsylvania. The officers traveled to Pennsylvania, questioned Yingst—who confessed to distributing child pornography. The investigative team’s persistence led to the discovery of tens of thousands of child pornographic images, and ultimately, to Yingst’s arrest.
National Exploited Children’s Law Enforcement Award: For the Capture of Charles Johnson, Jr.
*Sergeant Chris Hunt Indiana State Police, Indianapolis, Indiana
*Special Agent J. Tom Rothrock, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Indianapolis, Indiana
In July of 2005, NCMEC discovered images and videos of young girls being sexually abused. On one of the videos, they noticed a girl’s name and discovered she attended an elementary school in Indiana. On December 8, 2005, NCMEC provided the images to Sergeant Chris Hunt of the Indiana State Police, who is the commander of the Indiana ICAC Task Force. Sergeant Hunt contacted Special Agent J. Tom Rothrock of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Indianapolis. Special Agent Rothrock located the victim, who identified the offender as her former neighbor, Charles Johnson, Jr. The officers located Johnson in Ohio, where he had moved with his wife and three daughters. Sergeant Hunt obtained a warrant to search Johnson’s home and computer which yielded hundreds of pornographic images of children, at least four of whom Johnson had molested. Johnson was arrested and extradited to Indiana. He has since been charged with producing child pornography and is facing life in prison.
National Exploited Children’s Law Enforcement Award: “Precious Cargo” Investigation
*Trooper David E. Olweiler, Pennsylvania State Police, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
*Special Agent Christopher D. Kegerreis, Internal Revenue Service, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
*Special Agent Mike Beaver, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
*Intelligence Analyst Jamie L. Konstas, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alexandria, Virginia
In December of 2002, a 14-year-old victim of prostitution known as “Snowflake” was brutally murdered in Oklahoma City. Special Agent Mike Beaver of the FBI in Oklahoma City learned that the attack was the result of a murder plot ordered by a pimp named Michael Thomas. Beaver discovered a prostitution ring spanning several states. Led by Beaver, federal agents prosecuted more than 20 pimps, recovered more than 14 child victims of prostitution, and trained more than 400 local and federal agents.
This investigation led the FBI’s Oklahoma City office to compelling evidence that Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was another a hub for child sex trafficking. This discovery launched the “Precious Cargo” investigation that involved law enforcement in several other states. Trooper Olweiler gathered evidence which led to federal prosecutions in Oklahoma, Florida, Indiana, and Michigan; he also served as an expert witness in 10 federal grand jury and court proceedings. Special Agent Kegerreis collected evidence on the prostitution ring’s financial activities, provided evidence that linked child sex trafficking in several states to a larger enterprise, and developed a money laundering case. Intelligence Analyst Konstas gathered interagency intelligence, subpoenaed, and analyzed thousands of toll records linking pimps in Harrisburg and around the nation. To date, the “Precious Cargo” investigation has identified 18 pimps and more than 150 women and children who have worked as prostitutes, 31 of whom were recruited as juveniles.
2006 Attorney General’s Special Commendation Award:
*Special Agent Flint Waters, Cheyenne, WY
Special Agent Flint Waters supervises the Wyoming Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and in that capacity, combined his commitment to children with his computer programming skills, to develop a unique method for investigating individuals who were trading in child pornography through peer to peer file sharing programs. Flint then provided training to law enforcement officers nationally and internationally to enable them to effectively use this cutting edge software. Dubbed Operation Peerless and later, Peer Precision, this investigative approach is now used to successfully identify, investigate, and arrest predators from all over the world. Because of his work, countless children have been rescued from abusive situations and their abusers have been brought to justice.
2006 NCMEC Law Enforcement Leadership Award:
*Special Agent Flint Waters, Cheyenne, WY
Special Agent Flint Waters is well-known within the law enforcement community as a dedicated child protection official. In addition to the Attorney General’s Award,Mr. Waters is being recognized by NCMEC for his work and particularly for the creation of NCMEC’s CyberTipline Management System.
AMBER Alert Citizen Awards:
*Chastity Angell and Mike Butcher, Ivins City Utah
Mike Butcher and his wife Chastity Angell saw a televised AMBER Alert for two handicapped brothers, 12-year-old Tyler Jay Morton and 7-year-old Steven Thomas. The boys had been abducted by their non-custodial mother who had a history of violence, drug abuse and suffered from psychotic schizophrenia. Chastity made a point to remember the letters and numbers of the car’s license plate issued in the AMBER Alert with a phrase and a date. In this case 719 VMN became "July 19 - Very Macho Name."
The next day Mike saw a car that resembled the one mentioned in the alert. He asked his wife for the license plate number and they realized it was the suspect’s vehicle. The couple called the Ivins City Police Department and followed the suspect’s car. On the 911 tape, Chastity can be heard yelling driving instructions at her husband while they are in pursuit. The mother was arrested and the children were recovered 2 minutes after the call was made to police.
*Agatino Amoroso, Cooper City, Florida
Mr. Agatino Amoroso of Cooper City, Fla. noticed an AMBER Alert on a road sign with a description of the vehicle, as well as the license plate number, and realized that the vehicle was in front of him. He alerted law enforcement to the location of the car and followed the vehicle for approximately 15 minutes exiting the highway but staying on his cell phone providing the car’s location to the Florida Highway Patrol. Because of Mr. Amoroso’s continuous communication with law enforcement, they were able to respond immediately and rescue the child. In this case the suspect was armed with a firearm, which he did use, however, the child was rescued without injury. Mr. Amoroso stayed at the scene to facilitate the criminal investigation by providing details to law enforcement.
2006 National Courage Award: For the Attempted Abduction of Mickenzie Smith
*Mickenzie Smith, West Haven, Utah
Nine-year-old Kaidan Smith and his sister, 12-year-old Mickenzie Smith, were returning home on their bikes after a piano lesson in West Haven, Utah, when they were approached by a pickup truck belonging to 22-year-old Damon Victor Crist. Crist approached the two children and when they declined his offer of a ride home, he lunged after Mickenzie and despite her kicking and screaming, managed to throw her in the back seat of his truck and drive off. Kaidan ran to get help while Mickenzie continued to fight Crist. Frustrated, Crist ordered Mickenzie out of the truck and took off down the road. Mickenzie provided a detailed description of Crist to police and he was found and arrested on felony kidnapping charges and has since been sentenced to 10 years to life.
2006 National Courage Award: For the Attempted Abduction of Stephanie Quackenbush
*Stephanie Quackenbush, Albany, New York
Fifteen-year-old Stephanie Quackenbush was on her way to school when she was attacked by 24-year-old Darius Ashley. Attempting to assault her, Ashley dragged her off the busy street at knife point and threatened to kill her. Quackenbush managed to fend off her abductor, jerked the knife from his grasp, and got away. One month earlier, a classmate of Quackenbush’s was abducted on her way to the very same school and was later found raped and stabbed to death. Ashley is now serving 25 years in prison for raping two young females and for the attempted abduction of Quackenbush. Ashley later confessed that he had stabbed Quackenbush’s classmate to death after raping her in his car.
2006 National Missing Children’s Day Art Contest Winner
*Catherine M. Braun, Eugene, Missouri
The winner of the annual national Missing Children’s Day Art contest winner was Catherine M. Braun, a fifth grader at Our Lady of the Snows School in Eugene, Missouri. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia participated in the contest this year.
National NCMEC Volunteer of the Year Award:
*Khaliah Ali, Newtown, Pa
Khaliah Ali has promoted and represented NCMEC at many events. Her contributions include making contact with well known corporations and businesses on behalf of NCMEC and helping to produce and market national public service announcements about NCMEC. As a resident of the Philadelphia area, Ms. Ali worked closely with local leaders and schools to educate parents and communities on sex offenders in their community and ways to better protect their children.