This joint international investigation was conducted by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), HSI’s Office of the Caribbean Attaché, the Texas Attorney General’s Cybercrime Unit, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Curacao, a special task force unit in Curacao comprised of Dutch and local law enforcement officers, and the equivalent of the juvenile sex crimes unit of the Curacao Police Corps.
Stephen Wayne Sudduth, 38, of Sealy, Texas, was sentenced to 360 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas. Sudduth will receive credit for the more than three years he has been in federal custody since his arrest. Additional information presented on Dec. 17 included copies of some of the child pornography images Sudduth produced and a written victim-impact statement from one victim’s mother. The mother of a second victim also provided a statement before the court.
Sudduth was further ordered to pay restitution to the two victims. He will also serve 25 years of supervised release after he completes his prison term, during which time he will have to participate in counseling, have no contact with minors under the age of 18, and have very limited access to computers and the Internet. He must also register as a sex offender.
Sudduth pleaded guilty to the charges Sept. 3. His 30-year federal prison sentence will also run concurrently with a 60-year prison sentence Sudduth received in August for promoting child pornography in Austin County, Texas.
"This case is particularly troubling because of Mr. Sudduth’s position of trust with young children as a kindergarten teacher," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. "HSI actively works with our law enforcement partners in our shared fight against those who sexually exploit children. Removing these predators from our communities and bringing them to justice is a responsibility we take very seriously. We applaud the court's significant prison sentence."
This investigation began in 2009 when the Texas Attorney General’s Office received a tip concerning Sudduth. A state search warrant was executed at Sudduth’s residence in Sealy on July 14, 2009. Officers found child pornography on the seized a laptop computer and two external hard drives.
During a forensic analysis of the computers, officers observed images that contained Sudduth and images that appeared to have been taken in a classroom. They were able to confirm the classroom was at a school in Curacao and that Sudduth taught kindergarten at that school. Houston HSI special agents were then contacted to handle the international aspect of this investigation.
Child pornography still images of young girls were determined to have been taken with a digital camera. In December 2009 and May 2010, HSI special agents and a forensic child interviewer traveled to Curacao and were able to identify and interview the children depicted in the images.
Sudduth has been in federal custody where he will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Stabe, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.
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 the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of 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.