WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder today honored 52 prosecutors, law enforcement partners and victim advocates in 13 communities for their leadership protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation. The awards were presented at the 2011 National Strategy Conference on Combating Child Exploitation in San Jose, Calif.
Attorney General Eric Holder has made one of the department’s four key priorities the protection of those most vulnerable – children, the elderly, and victims of hate crimes, human trafficking and exploitation.
“Through their work in urban, rural and tribal communities – and through cutting-edge online efforts – these individuals are advancing bold, innovative and collaborative solutions to keep our children safe from all forms of exploitation and abuse,” said Attorney General Holder. “By focusing on prevention and intervention, as well as proven enforcement and prosecution strategies, these award recipients are strengthening our ability to protect children in need and at risk, and to bring offenders to justice.”
Focused on protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation, the conference held this week in San Jose is bringing together more than 1,000 investigators, agents and prosecutors from all levels of government to receive state-of-the-art instruction in investigative techniques, court room advocacy, digital forensics, behavioral profiling, victim advocacy and community outreach.
The conference is sponsored by the department’s Project Safe Childhood Initiative and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program.
Attorney General Holder presented the award for Outstanding Overall Partnership Coalition to the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force . The group of 20 members and affiliates are honored for their efforts in combating child exploitation crimes and promoting safer and more secure communities throughout the Southern District of California.
The San Diego (ICAC) Task Force employs a number of successful strategies to combat child exploitation, which include: training across jurisdictions on topics of mutual interest; cross-designated state law enforcement offices as Special Deputy U.S. Marshals; regular meetings with full and part-time members; and an emphasis on coordination between the district attorney’s office and U.S. Attorney’s office.
Attorney General Holder presented the award for Outstanding Community Outreach Efforts to three prosecutors and a community relations officer in the Southern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office for the launch of their effort, “Internet Safety—It’s Not Just the Computer Anymore.” Since its launch in January 2010, the program has held discussions on Project Safe Childhood and Internet safety with more than 2,500 educators, parents and students. The program’s continued growth and development includes a total of 12 Assistant U.S. Attorneys making presentations, in both English and Spanish, to teachers, school administrators, parents and youth.
The four award winners from the Southern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office are Robert Stabe, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division; Sherri Zack, Assistant U.S. Attorney; Megan Paulson, Assistant U.S. Attorney; and Rob Barnes, Community Relations Coordinator. They are being honored for their launch of, “Internet Safety—It’s Not Just the Computer Anymore.”
Attorney General Holder presented the award for Outstanding Multi-Agency Operation to four Washington, D.C., law enforcement officials. The four award winners are Timothy Palchak, Detective for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department; Chadwick M. Elgersma, Associate Division Counsel of the FBI; Scott Schelble, Relief Supervisor for the National Capital Response Squad of the FBI; and Keith Becker, Trial Attorney for the Child Exploitation/Obscenity Section of the Justice Department.
The awardees are honored for their work in a series of child pornography, enticing and traveler cases, which led to the rescues of four child victims from three separate homes. The prosecutions began as a single distribution of child pornography case which, on account of the extraordinary efforts by these four individuals, resulted in the successful prosecution of six sexual offenders. Four of the offenders were “hands-on” child sexual abusers who produced child pornography in four jurisdictions. The offenders were sentenced to lengthy prison terms ranging from 15 to more than 27 years in prison.
Attorney General Holder presented the award for Outstanding Multi-Agency Operation to three North Carolina and Massachusetts law enforcement officials. The three award winners are E. Michael Smith Jr., Special Agent for the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation; Gregory D. Squire, Special Agent for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Boston; and Joe Exum Jr., Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The awardees are honored for their work which led to the rescue of a six-year-old child exploitation victim and successful prosecution of the sex offender. In collaboration with state, local and federal authorities, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina prosecuted and convicted a sex offender for exploitation of a six-year-old child, obtaining the maximum sentence of 50 years in prison. While the sentence is significant, the most compelling aspect of the case is the apparent seamlessness with which a federal agent in Boston, coordinated with a state law enforcement agent in North Carolina, who in turn worked with state, federal and local law enforcement and prosecutors to follow through on the lead. This group exhibited exceptional cooperation and a swift response so that a child in rural North Carolina could be rescued quickly.
Attorney General Holder presented the award for Superior Performance in Victim Services to Felice Weiler, the Victim and Witness Specialist for the U.S. Attorney’s office of the Northern District of Illinois, for her outstanding work on behalf of victims in the prosecution of a sex offender.
Attorney General Holder presented the award for Outstanding Prevention Strategy to Tommy Loftis, Law Enforcement Coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama for his presentation, “The Hidden Dangers of the Digital Age,” promoting child Internet safety. During the past three years, Loftis has presented an informative and captivating program to more than 15,000 students and 5,000 parents throughout the Southern District of Alabama.
Attorney General Holder presented the award for Outstanding Overall Partnership Coalition to seven Florida and Hawaii law enforcement offices. The seven office awardees are the Broward, Fla., Sheriff’s Office; Miami-Dade Police Department; Miami Beach Police Department; the Honolulu Division of the FBI; the Miami Division of the FBI; the U.S. Secret Service Miami office; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
The offices are honored for their work in combating domestic sex trafficking of minors in South Florida. Through close partnerships, shared resources and tireless work, the group’s efforts have resulted in the indictment of more than 16 cases, charging more than 25 defendants for the domestic sex trafficking of minors. In 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Southern Florida had approximately five cases proceed to trial involving the sex trafficking of minors. Despite the many significant challenges faced by the prosecution teams, all defendants were found guilty.
Attorney General Holder presented the award for Outstanding Prevention Strategy to nine Ohio law enforcement officials affiliated with the Franklin County, Ohio, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The nine award winners are Deputy Chief Steve Martin of the Franklin, Ohio, County Sheriff’s Office; Corporal Dan Johnson of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office; Detective Marcus Penwell of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office; Detective Jane Junk of the Columbus, Ohio, Police Department; Officer John Priest of the Upper Arlington, Ohio, Police Department; Detective Brett Peachey of the Westerville, Ohio, Police Department; Officer Steve Grubbs of the Westerville Police Department; Agent Justin Myers of Homeland Security Investigations; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Hunter.
The awardees are honored for their work in combating child exploitation crimes throughout the Southern District of Ohio. Established in May of 2009, the Franklin County ICAC Task Force has demonstrated innovation and a consistent ability to adapt its techniques and practices to aggressively target child exploitation offenders in Central Ohio for arrest and prosecution. The ICAC employs several innovative strategies to combat child exploitation, including the training of multiple officers in computer forensics, partnering with federal agencies, cross-deputizing task force officers as federal agents and coordinating a prosecution strategy with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Its successes include arresting more than 180 child exploitation defendants – including nine repeat offenders – executing more than 150 search warrants, identifying 10 child victims and referring 27 cases for federal prosecution.
Attorney General Holder presented the award for Outstanding Interdiction Strategy to two U.S. postal inspectors. The award winners are William E.S. Beaty, Postal Inspector for the Seattle Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Gary Nork, Postal Inspector for the Phoenix Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
The two awardees are honored for their work to ensure that a sex offender would not exploit children through the Internet and U.S. Mail. Working together, these two postal inspectors from two different states not only devised a strategy to identify the suspect and interdict the communications, but also secured the prosecution of the sex offender. Within 48 hours of receiving a complaint from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, these postal inspectors acted to rescue a 12-year-old boy from a dangerous predator.
Attorney General Holder presented the award for Outstanding Local Prosecutor’s Office to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff for his efforts in combating child exploitation crimes and promoting safer and more secure communities throughout the state of Utah.
Led by Utah Attorney General Mark L. Shurtleff, the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force has conducted more than 700 investigations of child exploitation; engaged in community outreach with parents and children to discuss online safety; set up Utah’s Amber Alert program; and established the first statewide Child Abduction Response Team in Utah. The Utah Attorney General’s Office and the ICAC have also collaborated with other agencies, resulting in several significant child exploitation prosecutions by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah.