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Child Exploitation

Former Fresno teacher sentenced to 30 years for possessing and distributing child pornography

FRESNO, Calif. - A former Fresno, Calif., teacher has been sentenced to 30 years in prison following his conviction on two counts of receiving and distributing child pornography, charges arising from an investigation by the Fresno Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which includes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Ephraim Joe Aguirre II, 29, of Clovis, Calif., is also subject to a lifetime of supervised release and will be required to pay restitution to two victims depicted in the images. At Monday's sentencing, presiding Judge Anthony W. Ishii said called Aguirre "a clear danger and threat to the public."

The investigation into Aguirre, who had worked at elementary, middle, and high schools in the Fresno area, began after local police received information about his possible sexual abuse of a 17-year-old victim. During the ensuing investigation, agents examined two different computers owned by Aguirre. The computers contained thousands of images of child pornography, some depicting children as young as two years of age being sexually abused by adults.

The computers also contained evidence of chats between Aguirre and numerous individuals around the world revealing the distribution and receipt of images of minors, including images of a young girl in a dog kennel and a young girl crying from the abuse being inflicted. In addition, the chats allegedly contained statements by Aguirre about having molested a 4-year-old girl and a girl approximately 10 to 12 years of age. Aguirre also expressed interest in abducting, raping and murdering a child.

Aguirre has been in custody since his initial court appearance in Dec. 2008. He pleaded guilty in Sept. 2009.

"This sentence serves as a stern warning to other persons who possess and distribute child pornography and believe the anonymity of the Internet will shield them from detection," said Paul Leonardi, resident agent in charge for ICE investigations in Fresno. "This case is particularly disturbing because the defendant used his position of authority to exploit innocent children, many of whom will bear the emotional scars of this trauma for the rest of their lives."

ICE's participation in the investigation is part of the agency's initiative known as Operation Predator, an ongoing enforcement effort targeting those who sexually exploit children. The public is encouraged to report suspected child predators and suspicious activity by contacting ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE; and NCMEC, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.

This prosecution is part of the Department of Justice's ongoing Project Safe Childhood initiative, which was launched to increase federal prosecutions of sexual predators of children, and to reduce the number of Internet crimes against children including child pornography trafficking. As a part of PSC, the United States Attorney's Office has teamed with state and local agencies and organizations to increase law enforcement presence on the Internet, and to educate the public about safe Internet use, thereby reducing the risk that children might fall prey to online sexual predators.

For additional information on the PSC initiative, please go to www.projectsafechildhood.gov or call the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California and ask to speak with the PSC coordinator.