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Child Exploitation

Former Illinois state representative charged with possessing child pornography

CHICAGO — A former Illinois state representative was charged Monday with possessing child pornography.

These charges resulted from an investigation being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Keith Farnham, 66, of Elgin, Ill., allegedly possessed two videos depicting child pornography on a computer that was seized from his state office in Elgin in March. He was charged April 28 in a criminal complaint filed in the Northern District of Illinois. The complaint was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago.

Farnham was not arrested, and no date has been set yet for him to appear voluntarily for an initial appearance in federal court.

HSI special agents executed a federal search warrant March 13 at Farnham's office and residence in Elgin. According to the complaint affidavit, several computers and electronic storage devices were recovered that contained child pornography images, including the two charged videos. The seized office computer that contained the videos was labeled “Property of the State of Illinois House of Representatives.”

Farnham resigned his seat in the Illinois General Assembly March 19.

According to the complaint, HSI special agents were investigating information received from the HSI Cyber Crimes Center that an email address, later linked to Farnham, was being used to trade child pornography on the Internet. After linking the email account to Farnham, HSI special agents obtained and reviewed instant message chats that occurred between last June and January this year. Excerpts of those chats are detailed in the affidavit.

Possessing child pornography carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

A complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

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.