INDIANAPOLIS – Joseph H. Hogsett, the United States Attorney, announced today that Benjamin David Thomas, age 58, of Evansville, has been sentenced to 120 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young after admitting that he accessed and intended to view sexually-explicit material involving. This case was the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation Task Force and the Evansville Police Department as part of the U.S. Attorney’s ongoing Operation Community Watch initiative.
“The great tragedy is that every time these horrific images and videos are viewed, the child victims are exploited all over again,” Hogsett said. “That’s why we’ve teamed up with our federal and local partners with Operation Community Watch to impose a zero-tolerance policy on this type of criminal behavior.”
After his arrest, Thomas admitted to law enforcement that he viewed images depicting actual minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct using his home computer. Forensic analysis revealed that the computer had been used to browse various web sites that displayed images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The defendant is a registered sex offender with a 1997 multi-count conviction for child molestation against a female child.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney, Todd Shellenbarger, who prosecuted the case for the government, Judge Young also imposed a lifetime term of federally-supervised release, to be served at the end of the defendant’s prison term. During the period of supervised release, the defendant must register as a sex offender, participate in a sex offender treatment program, and cannot have any unsupervised contact with minors. Thomas also consented to the forfeiture of computer equipment used in the offenses he committed.
This arrest comes as Hogsett has announced a comprehensive crackdown on child exploitation in Indiana known as "Operation Community Watch," which allows prosecutors and investigators to use cutting-edge techniques to identify and charge people in Hoosier communities who are engaged in the receipt and trafficking of child pornography materials.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a larger nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Hogsett pointed out that in the last Project Safe Childhood reporting year, the Office prosecuted 65 cases, a dramatic increase over prior years. These are all-time records for the Office.
Led nationally by United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), 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 to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.