NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A former Connecticut teacher was sentenced today by Senior U.S. District Judge Ellen Breen Burns to 121 months in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for child sexual exploitation offenses. The sentence is the result of an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Richard D. Hendricks, 32, of Ashford, Conn., was formerly employed as a computer teacher at the East Hampton Middle School in East Hampton, Conn.
"This solemn but important prosecution revealed that the defendant, a middle school teacher, paid for and viewed live webcasts showing the sexual abuse of children overseas, and voyeuristically photographed and videotaped female students in his classroom," said U.S. Attorney David B. Fein, District of Connecticut. "His criminal behavior represents an extreme violation of trust, which we at the U.S. Attorney's Office, along with our law enforcement investigative partners, are committed to combatting."
"The receipt and of possession of child pornography by a teacher is one of the most heartbreaking violations of trust imaginable," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of HSI Boston. Foucart oversees HSI throughout New England. "We have an obligation to ensure that individuals who hold positions of trust in our community are held accountable for their actions. Today's sentence is a stern reminder about the consequences awaiting those who use the Internet to sexually exploit innocent children."
According to court documents and statements made in court, a national HSI investigation revealed that Hendricks purchased Internet access to live sex shows involving minors from approximately October 2009 to April 2010. The abusive shows originated in the Philippines.
HSI special agents seized two laptop computers, one desktop computer and two external hard drives from Hendricks's residence June 6, 2011. Subsequent forensic evaluation revealed that Hendricks used his computer to receive numerous images and video files of child pornography – including images of children under the age of 12 – and images portraying sadistic or masochistic conduct or other depictions of violence.
Investigators also discovered numerous images and videos of Hendricks' students at East Hampton Middle School. While many of the pictures were related to Hendricks' duties as yearbook advisor, investigators discovered that Hendricks secretly took voyeuristic photos and videos of female students in his classroom. He also manipulated some of these images to enhance their visibility, and used a software program to attempt to visualize the private areas of clothed girls.
During the course of the investigation, parental notification was made when investigators identified children who Hendricks secretly photographed or video recorded. With parental consent, agents conducted dozens of forensic interviews of the children.
Hendricks has been detained since his arrest June 9, 2011. On Jan. 19, 2012, he pleaded guilty to one count of receipt of child pornography.
HSI received assistance in investigating this case from the Connecticut State Police and the East Hampton Police Department.
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 1-866-347-2423 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, 1-800-843-5678.
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.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ray Miller and Deborah Slater, District of Connecticut, prosecuted this case on behalf of the U.S. government.