DENVER – Michael Yellowhorse, age 29, of Denver, Colorado, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson to serve 252 months (21 years) in federal prison for the production of child pornography using a minor in his care, Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Denver Division Acting Special Agent in Charge John Eisert announced. Following his prison sentence, Judge Jackson ordered the defendant to serve 10 years on supervised release. He is also required to register as a sex offender. The defendant, who appeared at the sentencing hearing in custody, was remanded at its conclusion.
Yellowhorse was charged by Criminal Complaint on December 23, 2014. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on January 7, 2015. He pled guilty before Judge Jackson on March 3, 2016. He was sentenced on December 7, 2016. The day Yellowhorse was originally scheduled to be sentenced he cut off his court-ordered ankle monitor and fled. He was ultimately caught and arrested in Texas following a high speed pursuit after he crashed into a civilian vehicle. Judge Jackson then ordered him held without bond pending a new sentencing date.
According to court documents, including the stipulated facts contained in the defendant’s plea agreement, due to investigative work of international law enforcement, including Queensland Police Service (QPS) in Australia, and HSI’s Cyber Crimes Center (C3), Child Exploitation Investigations Unit (CEIU), Victim Identification Program (VIP), sophisticated investigators identified a photo sharing website that was being used to facilitate the exchange of child pornography. After observing a user profile offering to exchange child pornography, a QPS investigator operating in an undercover capacity contacted Yellowhorse by email. After exchanging emails, Yellowhorse sent the investigator an image of child pornography. Information from the website obtained by a foreign law enforcement agency was able to be used to identify Yellowhorse. A search warrant executed at the home where Yellowhorse resided resulted in the seizure of laptops, cellphones, and an item that was observed in the background of the child pornography picture.
Yellowhorse’s laptop contained images of child pornography, as did the cellphone found on his person. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the defendant had produced the image of child pornography that was sent to the QPS investigator. A forensic review of the child pornography images included images with an adult male hand, later determined to be Yellowhorse’s. Yellowhorse had access to the minor child depicted in the images, who was in his care when the child pornography was created. Forensic examination showed that Yellowhorse produced child pornography depicting the minor child on two separate dates. The minor child depicted in the images was eight years old and appeared to be sleeping while the pictures were taken. Examination of the defendant’s cellphone and laptop also reflected the fact that he was in possession of more than 250 child pornography images depicting children other than the minor child under his care. Forensic evidence also showed that he visited the website in question that started this investigation thousands of times.
“Thanks to the outstanding cooperation between international law enforcement and HSI, and their extraordinarily complex computer forensics work, HSI was able to identify this child pornographer who made numerous efforts to remain anonymous,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer. “Where ever you are, if you’re involved in exploiting children, we will find you, you will be prosecuted, and you will face the same consequence as Yellowhorse.”
HSI’s active Operation Predator program has removed another predator from the streets for a long time,” said John Eisert, acting special agent in charge of HSI Denver. “Just as importantly, we rescued at least one innocent victim from this predator’s clutches — and an untold number of potential future victims if he were not caught.”
This case was investigated HSI. The defendant was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alecia L. Riewerts.