U.S. Marshals Locate 225 Missing Children in 16 Locations Across the United States During Operation We Will Find You
Spokane – Joseph H. Harrington, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Trent Drexel Howard, age 50, of West Richland, Washington, pleaded guilty on September 23, 2021 pursuant to a plea agreement to one count of Attempted Production of Child Pornography. In the plea agreement, Howard and the United States agreed to a sentence of 23 years in prison. District Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr. will decide whether to accept the plea agreement during the sentencing hearing set for January 6, 2022.
According to court documents, beginning on or about March 2008 and continuing through April 2016, Howard knowingly attempted to use fourteen different children to take part in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing visual depictions of such conduct. For years, Howard used cameras hidden in bathrooms and bedrooms of his residence, within the Eastern District of Washington, to capture video footage of the minor victims in nude and semi-nude states. Federal agents discovered the video footage after execution of a search warrant authorizing the search of evidence of child pornography at Howard’s residence. Agents seized over 100 electronic devices. The investigation began, however, when Howard distributed over 168 suspected child pornography files to an undercover agent over a publicly accessible, Internet based, file-sharing network. Forensic review of the seized devices led to the discovery of the hidden camera footage and later identification of at least fourteen minor victims.
According to court documents, Howard was working in Kazakhstan when federal agents executed the search warrant at his residence in Richland, Washington. After learning of the investigation, Howard stayed in Kazakhstan and was eventually arrested by Kazakhstan authorities on September 12, 2019. A Kazakh judge ordered Howard be detained pending an extradition request from the United States. According to the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, Howard’s removal from Kazakhstan is the first extradition from that country by the United States.
Acting United States Attorney Harrington said the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington, said, “Production of child pornography is a despicable crime. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington will continue to aggressively prosecute those who exploit children. I commend our state, local and federal law enforcement partners who investigated this case.”
This case was pursued as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the United States 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. The Project Safe Childhood Initiative (“PSC”) has five major components:
· Integrated federal, state, and local efforts to investigate and prosecute child exploitation cases, and to identify and rescue children;
· Participation of PSC partners in coordinated national initiatives;
· Increased federal enforcement in child pornography and enticement cases;
· Training of federal, state, and local law enforcement agents; and
· Community awareness and educational programs.
For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."
This case was investigated by the Spokane Resident Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of the Southeast Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which includes detectives from the Kennewick and Richland Police Departments, and the Moses Lake Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Ann T. Wick, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.