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Grand Jury Charges Mattoon Man with Child Pornography Offenses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 17, 2010

Peoria, Ill. – A federal grand jury returned an indictment late yesterday that charges a Mattoon, Illinois man with distribution, receipt and possession of child pornography. Jeffrey S. Belles, 28, of the 1500 block of Edgar Avenue, was previously arrested on March 2, 2010, and charged by criminal complaint. After a detention hearing on Mar. 4, before U.S. Magistrate Judge David G. Bernthal, Belles was ordered detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending trial.

If convicted, each count of the offenses of receiving (two counts) and distributing (four counts) child pornography carries a mandatory minimum statutory penalty of five years in prison and up to 20 years. For possession of child pornography (one count), the statutory penalty is up to 10 years in prison. All the offenses carry terms of supervised release of up to life following any term of imprisonment. Further, the indictment seeks criminal forfeiture of computer equipment and related items used in the commission of the alleged offenses.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, on various specific dates, beginning in September 2009, a Mattoon Police Department detective serving on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement working group identified a computer offering to participate in distribution of what appeared to be child pornography via a peer-to-peer network. The officer browsed the computer, later identified as belonging to Belles, and identified various video files that allegedly depict children engaged in various sexual activity including with adult males and females.

The charges are the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Illinois Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force and members of the working group including the Mattoon Police Department.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

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 via the Internet as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov

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