FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
AUSA VICKIE E. LEDUC or
MARCIA MURPHY at 410-209-4885
MARCH 22, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARYLAND’S PROJECT SAFE CHILDHOOD TASK FORCE COMBATS CHILD EXPLOITATION BY PROSECUTING PEDOPHILES AND ALERTING PARENTS AND CHILDREN ABOUT THE DANGERS OF THE INTERNET
Working Group to Review Progress and Plans on Friday
Baltimore, Maryland - Federal, state and local authorities will meet on Friday to review the progress of the Project Safe Childhood program to protect children from the dangers of the internet, announced United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. Friday will also mark the release of a new advertising campaign warning teenagers to “Think Before You Post” on the internet.
The Maryland Project Safe Childhood Task Force is a coordinated statewide effort to combat sexual exploitation and the abuse of children through the internet. Task Force members and working groups focus on catching pedophiles, training investigators and prosecutors, and warning children and parents about the risks of using the internet. Children who use the internet without supervision often view inappropriate material, post personal information about themselves and communicate with dangerous strangers.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said, “Every parent's worst nightmare is just one mouse click away. Parents who let their children use the internet without supervision might just as well drop them off alone on the most dangerous street in the world. As we work with our partners to prosecute child abusers, we must focus on deterring future abuse and alerting parents about the dangers their children face on the internet.
The Department of Justice, in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Ad Council, developed the “Think Before You Post” public service announcements to raise awareness about the dangers of online predators. The campaign reminds teenagers that “anything you post online, anyone can see.” The ads show both the social impact of posting inappropriate information and images online, as well as potentially dangerous consequences.
Pedophiles are finding new opportunities to network, share tips on how to develop relationships, groom children and gain their trust. Interactive websites allow potential predators to communicate directly with children, even in their own homes. Recent reports indicate that one in seven youngsters aged 10 to 17 who are regular internet users are sexually solicited online. Younger and younger children are being victimized and images are becoming more graphic and violent. Of the offenders identified nationally to date, 39% had images of children younger than six years old, and 19% had images of children younger than three.
In February 2006, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales launched Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. 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/.
Project Safe Childhood has five essential components: law enforcement coordination, localization of national leads, increased involvement of federal agencies in child pornography due to stiff federal penalties, law enforcement training, and education of children and parents to increase awareness about the possible dangers online. The Maryland Project Safe Childhood Task Force meets bi-monthly and includes members from the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, State’s Attorneys’ Offices, the Maryland State Police, sheriffs’ offices and police departments from around the state, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security, and the United States Secret Service. For more information about Project Safe Childhood in Maryland please visit http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/md/Safe-Childhood/index.html.
Since January 1, 2006, 40 defendants have been prosecuted in federal court in Maryland for crimes against children.
A list of all defendants charged or sentenced since January 1, 2006, the charges filed and where applicable, the sentence imposed, is attached. Press releases relating to most of these defendants can be found on the USAO website at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/md.
For example, James A. Reigle, Jr. was sentenced to life in prison on February 17, 2006 following his conviction by a federal jury of sexually exploiting minors to produce child pornography; conspiracy to transport, ship, and possess child pornography; and transportation and shipment of child pornography. Trial evidence indicated that Reigle, an avid Internet user, befriended children and then betrayed them and their families, by sexually abusing the children and taking pictures of them engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The case was significant for two reasons. First, the arrest stemmed from a new law-enforcement initiative in which investigators take images of unknown adults from photographs that show them engaging in sex with children, then broadcast the faces of the adults over the internet and on television. The same technology that child molesters use to spread child pornography anonymously is used to identify the child molesters and catch them. In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office developed the novel approach of obtaining an arrest warrant for a child molester even without knowing the identity of the suspect. As in the Reigle case, a warrant is issued for “John Doe” based solely on photographs of the suspects.
Second, the Reigle case was significant because it was the first time that a defendant has been sentenced to serve a mandatory sentence of life in prison for repeated sex offenses against children under the ‘two-strikes and you’re out’ law enacted in 2003.
Another significant case involved the sentencing on March 31, 2006 of Thomas C. Moser to 30 years in prison followed by supervised release for life. Moser was convicted at trial of using the internet to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity, interstate travel to engage in a sexual act with a minor and using the internet to obtain control of a minor for the purpose of producing child pornography. Trial evidence showed that Moser contacted an undercover postal inspector in an internet chat room and arranged to meet in order to have sexual relations with the undercover’s purported 12 and 14 year old daughters, and photograph the sexual activities. He was arrested upon his arrival at the meeting place. The case is believed to be the first conviction under a provision that prohibits a person having custody or control of a minor from offering to obtain control of a minor for the purpose of producing child pornography.
Robert M. Carey was sentenced on August 30, 2006 to 15 years in prison for producing and possessing child pornography. Carey used government computers at his National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration office and home over a ten year period to access child pornography over the Internet, and to download more than 1 million images of prepubescent girls and girls in their early teens in erotic or sexually graphic poses. Carey, who was arrested in Italy, was the third federal fugitive and the second child molester brought to justice in Maryland in 2006 after being featured on “America’s Most Wanted.”
Most recently, a criminal complaint was filed on Tuesday charging William Edward Wray, II, age 50, of Crespatown, Maryland in Allegany County with inducing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing visual depictions of such conduct.
The criminal complaint alleges that members of the Combined County Criminal Investigation Unit (C3I) located in Allegany County, Maryland executed a search warrant at Wray’s residence. In addition to locating numerous hard drives, several hundred pieces of removable media, and a digital video camera at the residence, officers also located several Polaroid images of minor children that constitute child pornography and numerous videotapes. Agents viewed the videotapes and identified Wray in the videos engaging in sexually explicit behavior with minor children, two of whom have been identified.
Wray faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison for production of child pornography. Wray is in state custody on child sexual abuse charges. No federal court appearance has been scheduled.
A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the Combined County Criminal Investigation Unit, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for their outstanding and cooperative work on this child pornography investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Bonnie S. Greenberg, who is prosecuting the case filed today.
Training, Shared Investigative Information and Community Outreach
Members of the Project Safe Childhood Task Force provide training to law enforcement officers, probation officers and victim service providers. Bi-monthly meetings of investigators throughout the state who work on crimes against children are held. Intelligence gathered from investigations are shared with all investigators in order to coordinate crimes against children investigations by enhancing the database that identifies screen names and online identities used by predators.
One of the most important roles of Project Safe Childhood is education. Law enforcement agents from the Project Safe Childhood Task Force have spoken at area schools on how to protect children from solicitation over the internet. The Task Force is developing a model awareness and education program for parents and teachers, and will be reaching out to the Maryland Department of Education with training assistance.
Parents must get involved by talking to children about not responding to unknown e-mails, keeping the computer in a family room or other open area, visiting your children’s favorite online sites and making sure that the child's screen names cannot be identified as a child.