National Manhunt Results in Federal Charges and Arrest of Salem Couple for Production of Child Pornography
Arrested after National Appeal for Public Assistance by Homeland Security Investigations Locates Couple Suspected of Producing Child Pornography
PORTLAND, Ore. - Michelle Lee Freeman, 40, and her husband, Michael Serapis Freeman, 39, both of Salem, appeared today before U.S. Magistrate John V. Acosta, for an initial appearance on a federal complaint charging both defendants with the sexual exploitation of children for the production of child pornography. The maximum penalty, if convicted of this crime, is not less than 15 years nor more than 30 years imprisonment.
On August 8, 2012, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) issued a national appeal for public assistance to locate an unknown suspect who was producing child pornography. HSI's Child Exploitation Investigations Unit's Victim Identification Program obtained a "Jane Doe" arrest warrant in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for the suspect. Two weeks later, tips from the Pacific Northwest led HSI to call on local and regional news media to publicize the search. That news coverage, and additional sharing on Facebook and other social media outlets, eventually produced tips from the public to HSI which directly lead to the Freemans' arrest.
According to the complaint, Michael Freeman produced images of child pornography involving his two minor daughters and subsequently traded some of these images with another individual over the Internet. Michelle Freeman is also alleged to have produced images of child pornography and allowed her husband to use their children to produce child pornography.
"Cases like this strike at the heart of all of us, - U.S. Attorney S. Amanda Marshall stated. "These arrests mark the culmination of a coast to coast, multi-agency investigation into allegations of horrendous acts of child sexual abuse and exploitation. What it shows is how when we work together--federal, state and local law enforcement, and each of us as concerned citizens--we can stop abuse and rescue children.
"When leads turned cold in this case, HSI special agents asked for the public's help," said Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton. "Now, thankfully, two child victims have been rescued and their accused abusers are in custody. Children have the right to be safe from predators. There is no higher work, and we will continue to investigate these crimes with our law enforcement partners."
Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore stated, "This is a tragic example of children being manipulated and victimized. We are committed to protecting the children in our community, and we appreciate the close working relationship that we have with our partners in the Federal law enforcement system in bringing those who are accused of abusing children to justice."
HSI is handling the investigation of this case and has received assistance from the Salem Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Kerin, the head of the U.S. Attorney's Office Gang Unit.
A complaint is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or www.cybertipline.com.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc "resources."