U.S. Department of Justice
Peter F. Neronha
United States Attorney
District of Rhode Island
August 2, 2012
Warren Man Pleads Guilty to Possessing and Distributing Child Pornography
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Warren man arrested in September 2011 during a Rhode Island State Police led roundup of 14 individuals identified as allegedly possessing and/or distributing child pornography pleaded guilty in federal court today to federal child pornography charges.
Thomas Wells, 32, pleaded guilty as charged in a federal indictment returned February 1, 2012, charging him with one count each of possession and distribution of child pornography. Wells was arrested by one of eight teams of federal, state and local law enforcement agents and officers that fanned out across the state on September 28, 2011, armed with court authorized search warrants for residences identified by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) as allegedly possessing and/or distributing child pornography.
Wells’ guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha; Colonel Steven G. O’Donnell, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police; and Robert Bethel, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
According to information presented to the court, a Postal Inspection Service inspector and ICAC agents developed evidence during the investigation that child pornography was being traded through the Internet from Wells’ residence. Law enforcement agents executed a court authorized search of Wells’ home and discovered hundreds of digital images depicting child pornography. Wells admitted to the court that he had been downloading and distributing child pornography through a peer-to-peer network commonly accessed to trade child pornography.
Wells is scheduled to be sentenced on October 23, 2012, by U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr. Wells faces up to 50 years in federal prison, with a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years imprisonment; up to lifetime supervised release; and a fine of up to $500,000.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Terrence P. Donnelly.
The ICAC Task Force is a Department of Justice grant-funded program administered by the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit. It is comprised of detectives from the Rhode Island State Police and Providence, West Warwick, and Coventry Police Departments, and an agent from ICE-Homeland Security Investigations. The objective of the RI ICAC is to form strong working relationships between local, state and federal law enforcement to effectively and efficiently prevent, detect, investigate, and prosecute online child exploitation and child pornography crimes.
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 and click on the tab “resources.”