Stephen Keating, 52, of Jesup, Ga., had his initial court appearance Friday morning in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge James E. Graham. Keating was not granted a bond; his detention hearing will be held before Judge Graham on Monday.
United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver said, "Child exploitation, often over the Internet, has reached epidemic proportions. This disturbing development demands we act with the full force of the department and its many law enforcement partners. We will settle for nothing less than reducing incidents of child exploitation and bringing justice to those who would steal the innocence of our nation's children."
"HSI will never relent in our efforts to identify and arrest child predators who terrorize and exploit the most vulnerable members of our community," said Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of HSI Atlanta. "These monsters living among us inflict the most unimaginable harm upon the innocent to satisfy their perverse desires, and we will continue to find them and bring them to justice."
The charge against Keating arises out of an investigation led by HSI with assistance from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations in Savannah, CBP Air and Marine Operations in Jacksonville, Fla., and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Tarver emphasized that a charge is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
This investigation is 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-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 the U.S. representative 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.