D O J Seal
U.S. Department of Justice

United States Attorney Richard B. Roper
Northern District of Texas

 

 
 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEDIA INQUIRIES: KATHY COLVIN
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2008
WWW.USDOJ.GOV/USAO/TXN

PHONE: (214)659-8600
FAX: (214) 767-2898

 

 

PASTOR ARRESTED ON CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGE

Defendant is Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Royse City, Texas

DALLAS — Steve Richardson was arrested yesterday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on the federal felony charge of transporting child pornography, as outlined in a criminal complaint and affidavit that was filed in U.S. District Court in Dallas today, announced U.S. Attorney Richard B. Roper of the Northern District of Texas. Richardson, 36, is the Pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Royse City, Texas. He is scheduled to make his initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul D. Stickney at 3 p.m..

“Hello” software is an Internet service that enables users to trade images quickly. The Hello program lets traders connect directly (peer-to-peer) to each other’s computers specifically to share pictures. Since the connection is peer-to-peer, there is no limit to the number and size of pictures that may be shared. Once a connection is created, the individuals simply select the pictures they wish to share. This may be an individual picture, or a folder containing thousands of photos. While connected, the individuals may also engage in chat conversations, thus overcoming the traditional limitation of peer-to-peer software by facilitating both live chat and exchange of large volumes of files simultaneously.

According to the affidavit, on December 20, 2007, Richardson, using Google’s “Hello” software program, and the user name “cowboysspades,” distributed an image of child pornography to an undercover ICE agent. The investigation began in August 2007 when ICE Special Agents executed a search warrant in a child pornography investigation at the residence of M.H., who consented to agents assuming his online presence on Google Hello to communicate with individuals involved in distributing child pornography. On December 20, 2007, an ICE Special Agent, using M.H.’s Google Hello identity in an undercover capacity, communicated with and received an image of child pornography from Hello user “cowboysspades.” M.H. received a total of six images from “cowboysspades,” one of which fits the definition of child pornography; the other images would be considered child erotica.

On February 1, 2008, the ICE Special Agent, operating undercover, was again contacted by “cowboysspades,” who sent M.H. five images appearing to be child erotica.

On September 26, 2007, ICE Special Agents executed a search warrant at the residence of R.F., which resulted in the seizure of computers and arrest of R.F. for possession of child pornography. R.F. advised that one of the screen names that he remembered trading with on Google Hello was “cowboysspades” and that “cowboysspades” had sent him “homemade” images within the past three months. Examination of R.F.’s computer revealed a folder named “from coyboysspades,” which contained approximately 30 images of child pornography.

The Google Hello records for “cowboysspades lists the email address as “girlpedolover@hushmail.com.” Further investigation revealed that the Yahoo! email name “girlpedolover@yahoo.com“ is registered to Steve Richardson in Royse City, Texas, with the same IP address as one of the nine IP addresses “cowboysspades” used to logon to his Hello account.

Further forensic investigation revealed additional chats between “cowboysspades” and others. In one, “cowboysspades” received and distributed dozens of images of child pornography including several images of infants engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

On September 24, 2008, a search warrant was executed at First United Methodist Church in Royse City, Texas. A Special Agent with ICE spoke to Pastor Steve Richardson, who admitted that he used the Google Hello name “cowboysspades.” The affidavit also states that Richardson admitted trading child pornography using his work computer.

This matter is being brought as part of Project Safe Childhood. In February 2006, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales launched Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys Offices, 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 identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov

U.S. Attorney Roper praised the excellent investigative efforts of the ICE. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lisa Miller and Aisha Saleem are handling the matter.

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