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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Michigan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Grand Rapids Man Sentenced For Distribution Of Child Pornography On The Dark Web

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Patrick A. Miles, Jr., announced today that Seth Edward Piccolo, 44, of Grand Rapids, was sentenced to 60 months’ imprisonment for his role as a member of a dark website for the distribution of child pornography, including images of very young prepubescent children being sexually assaulted. Piccolo pled guilty to charges of possession and access with intent to view child pornography in April of this year, followed by a guilty plea to distribution of child pornography in May. The pleas were accepted and the sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell.

          Piccolo was a member of a website that operated on the "dark web." The dark web is a description given to websites that are only accessible through specialized software that utilizes layers of encryption to hide the identity of the users. Australian law enforcement authorities, in cooperation with the FBI, discovered the illegal website that was dedicated to trading child pornography. Piccolo established his membership credentials by uploading images from his own collection of child pornography. Once admitted, he was able to access and download images from the website and images posted by other users. The FBI and Australian authorities identified hundreds of members who were scattered across the globe leading to Piccolo’s apprehension and conviction. Piccolo made further attempts to conceal his activities by utilizing encryption and evidence destroying software on his home computer.

          "The dark web is no sanctuary for criminal activity," U.S. Attorney Miles said. "Law enforcement in the Western District of Michigan is committed to tracking down criminals who try to use technology to evade detection of their crimes, including child exploitation offenses."

          This case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, county prosecutors’ offices, the Internet Crimes Against Children task force ("ICAC"), federal, state, and local law enforcement are working closely together to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children. The partners in Project Safe Childhood work to educate local communities about the dangers of online child exploitation, and to teach children how to protect themselves. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit the following web site: www.projectsafechildhood.gov. Individuals with information or concerns about possible child exploitation should contact local law enforcement officials.

          The case was investigated by the FBI’s WEBCHEX Task Force and the Australian Queensland Police Service’s Task Force Argos. Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin M. Presant prosecuted the case.

END

Updated July 21, 2016