tWO DEFENDANTS PLEAD GUILTY TO INVOLVEMENT IN INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL NETWORK ORGANIZED TO SEXUALLY EXPLOIT CHILDREN
SHREVEPORT, La. – United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that two additional defendants pleaded guilty Thursday for their involvement in an international criminal network organized to sexually exploit children in connection with their participation in the Dreamboard child exploitation operation. United States District Judge S. Maurice Hicks presided over the hearing.
Christopher Blackford, 28, of Charleston, S.C., pleaded guilty to participating in a child exploitation enterprise and faces 20 years to life in prison, a $250,000 fine, and five years supervised release. According to the stipulated factual basis contained in the plea agreement, Blackford joined Dreamboard Dec. 29, 2009, and placed 84 online bulletin board posts containing child pornography.
William Davis, 39, of Bristol, N.H., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to advertise child pornography and faces 15 to 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and five years to life of supervised release for his part in the Dreamboard child exploitation operation. According to the stipulated factual basis contained in the plea agreement, during his time on Dreamboard, Davis posted advertisements offering to distribute child pornography to other members of the board.
Sentencing has been set for July 29, 2013.
Blackford and Davis were charged in an indictment unsealed on Aug. 3, 2011. The charges are the result of Operation Delego, an ongoing investigation launched in December 2009 that targeted individuals around the world for their participation in Dreamboard. Dreamboard was a private, members-only, online bulletin board that was created and operated to promote pedophilia and encourage the sexual abuse of very young children in an environment designed to avoid law enforcement detection.
A total of 72 individuals, including Blackford and Davis, have been charged as a result of Operation Delego. To date, 57 of the 72 charged defendants have been arrested in the United States and abroad. Forty-seven individuals have pleaded guilty, and one was convicted after trial. Forty-two of the 48 individuals who have pleaded guilty or found guilty for their roles in the conspiracy have been sentenced to prison and have received sentences ranging between 10 years to life in prison. Three defendants have received life sentences, including one who was convicted at trial. Fifteen of the 72 charged individuals remain at large and are known only by their online identities. Efforts to identify and apprehend these individuals continue. Operation Delego represents the largest prosecution to date in the United States of individuals who participated in an online bulletin board conceived and operated for the sole purpose of promoting child sexual abuse, disseminating child pornography and evading law enforcement.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Luke Walker of the Western District of Louisiana and Trial Attorney Keith Becker of CEOS. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance. The investigation was conducted by ICE-Homeland Security Investigations, the Child Exploitation Section of ICE’s Cyber Crime Center, CEOS, CEOS’s High Technology Investigative Unit and 35 ICE offices in the United States and 11 ICE attaches offices in 13 countries around the world, with assistance provided by numerous local and international law enforcement agencies across the United States and throughout the world.
The investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers and foreign-national predators whose crimes make them deportable.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators. Tips or other information can also be submitted to ICE online at www.ice.gov/exec/forms/hsi-tips/tips.asp. Tips may be reported anonymously.