May 25, 2011
U.S. ATTORNEY ANNOUNCES RESULTS OF CHILD EXPLOITATION PREVENTION INITIATIVE
(HOUSTON) – Today, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced that in the last two years in the Southern District of Texas, the joint investigative efforts of Assistant U.S. Attorneys and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners has resulted in the prosecution of 75 persons who have, or are alleged to have, exploited children in violation of federal law as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a long-term, coordinated law enforcement effort to investigate and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children.
PSC is a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice and led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, PSC 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. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) estimates that 10 percent of those depicted in commonly traded images are infants and toddlers and 67 percent are prepubescent children.
In a victim impact statement submitted during a child pornography prosecution by the mother of a child whose sexual abuse was photographed, the mother writes, “It has been seven years since my daughter’s case [was] revealed. Since then, I have been informed on a monthly basis of accounts where someone is being charged for having possession of her images that were on the Internet. These images will never be erased from the Internet and will never be erased from my daughter’s memory. The fact that someone says to view the images is a non-victim incident is absurd. The individuals who view these images are only feeding the perpetrator to continue creating and exchanging such images. Every time my daughter’s image is viewed, she is a victim all over again.”
“Images and videos of child pornography are, in essence, crime scene photos,” said U.S. Attorney Moreno. “The dissemination of child pornography perpetuates the abuse initially inflicted on these children into perpetuity. The sexual predator who entices a minor for sexual purposes via the Internet targets the most vulnerable for their own sexual gratification. These predators cannot be permitted to prey upon our children. PSC and the commitment of resources by my office and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners reflect our commitment to seek out the predator and protect and rescue our children.”
There is no “general description” or “profile” of a sexual predator. Defendants come from all walks of life. They run the gamet in age from 20 to 70 and in profession or employment from students to college professors, to engineers, lawyers and teachers. They could be your neighbor next door or living several states or countries away. Cases investigated by our various law enforcement partners and recently prosecuted by this office include cases brought against individuals engaged in child exploitation crimes, including:
- the possession, distribution, transportation and production of child pornography,
- sex trafficking of a minor,
- traveling to engage in sex with a minor,
- Internet enticement of a minor,
- “sex tourism” (traveling from the United States to other countries to abuse children),
- and violations of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”)
A list of notable cases investigated and prosecuted in this district between March 2009 and March 2011 is attached.
Federal penalties associated with child exploitation crimes are severe. In addition to facing a lengthy, often mandatory, term of imprisonment, defendants prosecuted in the Southern District of Texas often face a lifetime of court supervision following any period of incarceration as well as life time registration as a sex offender. During that time, in addition to being a registered sex offender, a defendant will not be allowed to have any unsupervised contact with children, will be subject to random searches of their homes and places of work and will have his computer and Internet use monitored.
Our Law Enforcement Partners
In the SDTX, our law enforcement partners include the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) - Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the United States Secret Service (USSS), the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the United States Marshals Service (USMS), district attorney offices within our district, the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) (http://hmicac.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage) which includes 41 federal and local law enforcement agencies, as well as a second ICAC operated by the Texas Attorney General’s Office (TX AG)Computer Crimes Unit with law enforcement investigators and professional forensic examiners (https://www.oag.state.tx.us/criminal/investigation.shtml#icac).
The TXAG-ICAC conducts criminal investigations, assists other law enforcement agencies, provides training and performs forensic analysis of electronic evidence and in our district focuses its investigative resources in the McAllen and Laredo divisions.
In Houston, the FBI’s Innocent Images Task Force includes officers from the Houston Police Department and Harris County Sheriff’s Office, working together to investigate crimes occurring over the Internet, including on-line crimes against children and providing computer forensic review services for participating agencies.
HSI’s Operation Predator is a world-wide initiative focused upon identifying, investigating and arresting child predators and sexual offenders. It draws on HSI's unique investigative and enforcement authorities targeting and investigating child pornographers, child sex tourists and facilitators, human smugglers and traffickers of minors, and criminal aliens convicted of offenses against minors and those deported for child exploitation offenses who have returned illegally. For more information about Operation Predator see http://www.ice.gov/predator/.
The USMS investigates, locates and brings to justice, convicted sexual predators who have failed to comply with sex offender registration requirements of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). SORNA provides a comprehensive set of minimum standards for sex offender registration and notification in the United States and seeks to strengthen the nationwide network of sex offender registration and notification programs. In part, SORNA requires registered sex offenders to register and keep their registration current in each jurisdiction in which they reside, work or go to school. To learn more about the USMS efforts against child predators see http://www.usmarshals.gov/.
Stressing the dedication and commitment of federal and state prosecutors along with the PSC law enforcement partners to locate, arrest and prosecute child predators, Moreno issued this warning to those engaged in exploiting our children, “You cannot hide in cyberspace nor coerce and intimidate our children into prostitution or forced labor. Sooner or later we will find you. It may be tomorrow, next week or next month, but eventually law enforcement will be knocking on your door.”
Our Outreach Efforts
Because prevention is as integral to the success of PSC as investigations and prosecutions, PSC includes law enforcement training and community outreach efforts. Just this month, in recognition of the work done by our Community Relations Coordinator and three Assistant U.S. Attorneys including our PSC Coordinator, this office received the Department of Justice Combating Child Exploitation Award for Outstanding Community Outreach Efforts. The award was earned through an educational outreach presentation program entitled, “Internet Safety: It’s Not Just Your Computer Anymore,” launched in January 2010 and directed toward parents and educators to help prevent child enticement, sexting, cyberbullying and online hazards faced by children. To date, presentations have been made to more than 2,500 educators and parents district wide in both English and Spanish. In its next phase, the program will include presentations to children and teens.
As part of its public outreach efforts, the Department of Justice has launched a web site that highlights the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. This new site, the “Briefing Room,” is available at www.justice.gov/usao/briefing_room/index.html and offers news, videos, photos, statistics and other information on significant issues. Each month, the Briefing Room will feature a different Department of Justice priority area. The inaugural edition of the Briefing Room is dedicated to PSC and includes press releases on significant PSC cases, statistics on convictions and sentences in PSC cases and prevention and Internet safety resources.
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