PITTSBURGH - Two men pleaded guilty this week in federal court for their participation in an international group of child pornography collectors who used a social networking site to share thousands of sexually explicit images. Ryan Chiles, of Hampton, Va., pleaded guilty on July 14 in federal court to one count of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise. Stephen Sims, of Palm Springs, Calif., pleaded guilty on July 13 to one count of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise.
Information presented during the plea hearings established that Chiles, 21, and Sims, 56, engaged in a child exploitation enterprise from Jan. 1, 2007, to Sept. 22, 2009. Specifically, Chiles, Sims and others distributed images and videos of children being sexually abused to other members of an international group that had restricted membership and was formed on a social networking website. Members of the group distributed to one another thousands of sexually explicit images and videos of children, many of which graphically depicted prepubescent, male children, including some infants, being sexually abused and sometimes sodomized or subjected to bondage.
Sentencing for Sims has been set for Feb. 4, 2011, and sentencing for Chiles has been set for Feb. 11, 2011. They face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison. Chiles and Sims also face a fine of up to $250,000.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the High Tech Investigative Unit of Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Chiles and Sims. CEOS Trial Attorney Barak Cohen and Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig W. Haller prosecuted the cases.
The investigation that led to this case was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign-national predators whose crimes make them deportable.
Launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 12,800 individuals through Operation Predator. ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.