According to court documents, during 2007, ICE special agents in Seattle, Washington conducted an investigation of individuals who were trading images of child pornography using a particular internet file sharing program. As part of this operation, an ICE special agent in Seattle established an undercover online identity and used this identity to communicate with other individuals on this file sharing program. On October 23, 2007, the ICE agent established contact through the "chat" function with an individual using the screen name "stratocon." The agent had previously found notices posted by "stratocon" on a particular Internet website (the "Advertising Website") where computer users post notices to advise other users as to what pictures they would like to trade. The agent and "stratocon" engaged in electronic chat conversation, during which "stratocon" transmitted approximately 79 images of child pornography. Subsequently, ICE agents determined that "stratocon" was actually Robert Francis Bricker, and identified his residence in Jacksonville. This information was forwarded to ICE agents in the Jacksonville Field Office.
According to court documents, ICE special agents checked the Advertising Website and discovered that Bricker had posted notices and advertisements seeking to trade images of child pornography on January 13, 2007, September 21, 2007, and November 23, 2007. Bricker posted these and other notices and advertisements on the Advertising Website so that other computer users would see them, make electronic contact with him (Bricker), and trade images of child pornography with him over the Internet.
According to court documents, on December 17, 2007, ICE agents and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office ("JSO") detectives executed a federal search warrant at Bricker's residence in Jacksonville. Among other things, Bricker told the agents that he maintains a collection of child pornography involving children under the age of 10, and saved images to the "My Documents" folders on the computer. Bricker described the process of using the particular Internet file sharing program, stating that he would first go to the Advertising Website, log in with his user ID, and then tell them what he wanted. When questioned about the compact disks found near his computer, Bricker indicated that he downloaded images to the computer and then saved the images to the disks.
According to court documents, the forensic analysis of the computers and other media seized from Bricker revealed over 7,000 unique images depicting child pornography. Many of these images depicted sadistic and/or masochistic conduct. The analysis showed that Bricker had traded images of child pornography over the Internet with at least 85 different individuals in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The chat logs showing these transmissions of images of child pornography were also discovered. During one such chat on September 29, 2007, one particular user indicated that the user had seen one of Bricker's advertisements on the Advertising Website. The user and Bricker then exchanged images of child pornography. On all of the computer media seized from Bricker, there were approximately 413,000 images which appeared to depict minor children.
The arrest of Bricker was part of Operation Predator, a comprehensive ICE initiative aimed at those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign national predators whose crimes make them deportable. Since the initiative was launched in July of 2003, there have been more than 11,000 individuals arrested nationwide.
Additional information about Operation Predator is available on the Web at www.ice.gov. ICE encourages the reporting of suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. 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 & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Jacksonville and Seattle, Washington, and by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney D. Rodney Brown.