This investigation was a cooperative effort between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) and Great Falls Police Department.
Thomas Andrew Quinton, 32, from Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, pleaded guilty to the charges Nov. 12. Sentencing has been set for Feb. 7. He is currently detained.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Lahr, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
- In June 2013, members of the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force in Great Falls conducted a "catch the predator" operation. An ad was posted on Craigslist to target individuals in Great Falls and the surrounding area who were interested in having sex with a child.
- On June 24, an agent posted one such ad and received numerous responses. The agent then used an undercover persona to pose as a fictitious person named Teresa Smith, a 38-year-old woman in Great Falls living with her 12-year-old niece, Katie Smith. The agent exchanged several emails with an individual responding to the ad who ultimately identified himself as Thomas Andrew Quinton, a Canadian citizen. The emails from Quinton contained descriptions of sex acts Quinton wanted to engage in with Katie. Quinton also sent a photograph of himself and two more of his penis.
- Beginning July 2, Quinton began texting the agent stating that he would be taking time off work. The agent exchanged 375 text messages with Quinton between July 2 and 3. Many of the text messages contained descriptions of sex acts or were of a sexual nature. Quinton was advised on multiple occasions via text and email that Katie was a 12-year-old girl.
- The telephone number Quinton used was identified as a Canadian-based number out of Lethbridge, Alberta.
- Quinton was given the address of the house being used by ICAC Task Force agents for the operation, and Quinton agreed to travel to the residence to have sex with Katie.
- At around 4:15 p.m. on July 3, Quinton parked his truck at the residence and walked to the house where he was arrested and taken into state custody charged with sexual abuse of children.
- The agent and a Great Falls Police detective interviewed Quinton who stated that he had traveled from Lethbridge to Great Falls on July 3 to have sex with Katie. He confirmed his cellular phone number was the number used for the text messaging and that he had corresponded via text messaging and emails with Teresa and Katie to meet Katie and have sex with a child. The agent also confirmed that Quinton and his vehicle had entered the United States at the Sweetgrass Port of Entry on July 3 at 2:28 p.m.
Quinton faces possible penalties of 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and lifetime supervision.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including producing and distributing online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.