According to court documents, on or about Oct. 17, Ryan Scott Nichols, 24, used a peer-to-peer file sharing network to distribute 15 images and two videos of child pornography to an undercover law enforcement officer. HSI special agents subsequently executed a search warrant at his residence. Forensic analysis of his computer and phone revealed that he had more than 3,000 images and 100 videos depicting child pornography in his possession.
"This individual spent an incredible amount of time with children, not only during the day as an elementary school teacher's aide, but also as a volunteer with the Big Brother Program," said Sue McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. "He served in positions of trust, all while trading child pornography online. I urge child predators to take note. Homeland Security Investigations will identify you and ensure that you are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
In addition to serving his sentences, Nichols must also forfeit a Hewlett Packard TouchSmart computer and a Samsung Galaxy S phone, which were used to commit the offenses.
He pleaded guilty May 1.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE 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, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.