BOISE, Idaho - A former teacher at an Idaho middle school pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges of possession of obscene visual representation of the sexual abuse of children, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Steven Kutzner, 33, of Boise, Idaho, came to the attention of authorities in December 2008 after the German Federal Police (GFP) began investigating the distribution of child pornography on a peer-to-peer file sharing network. The GFP reached out to HSI for assistance in locating users of the illegal network in the United States.
According to the plea agreement, HSI agents identified Kutzner's IP address as one that had offered a file of child pornography from the German network for download to others in October 2008. HSI agents served search warrant on his home in August 2009 and a subsequent forensic analysis conducted by the Idaho State Police cyber crimes unit uncovered 70 cartoon-like pornographic images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
Many of the images discovered depicted child characters from "The Simpsons" television series. Kutzner admitted he had downloaded the illegal images and that he had installed two different programs designed to erase the downloaded files.
At the time Kutzner was a teacher at Lake Hazel Middle School in Meridian, Idaho. He resigned immediately after the search warrant was served at his home.
"We aggressively use our investigative authorities to protect our communities from those who seek to sexually exploit children for their own perverse gratification," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations. "HSI continues to dedicate resources to identify those individuals who engage in this type of criminal behavior and ensure they are brought to justice."
Kutzner is scheduled to sentenced January 5, 2011, before U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge in Boise. Kutzner faces a maximum sentence of ten years in federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and supervised release of up to three years.
This investigation is part of ICE's Operation Predator, a nationwide initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who sexually exploit children, and the Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood, which marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet.
As part of Operation Predator, ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
Through Project Safe Childhood, the Department of Justice is seeking to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.