SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - A local man who allegedly arranged to meet a 12-year-old boy for sex was charged in federal court yesterday with attempting to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity and possessing child pornography. These charges resulted from an investigation conducted by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Thomas Thornburg, 52, of the 1200 block of W. Governor St., was arrested Feb. 17 and charged April 1 in U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois. According to the affidavit filed in federal court, Thornburg allegedly engaged in email chats in February with a person he believed to be a 12-year-old boy from Springfield. The boy was actually an ICE agent posing as a 12-year-old minor male. During one of the email chats, Thornburg allegedly made arrangements to meet the boy near his school.
Thornburg was arrested Feb. 17 after law enforcement officers observed him walking northbound on Lincoln Street near Sacred Heart Griffin and Dubois Elementary schools. ICE agents executed a state search warrant at Thornburg's residence that same day and seized a computer, compact discs and other items. ICE agents conducted an initial forensic examination of materials recovered from Thornburg's residence and identified 164 movies containing child pornography, including movies depicting boys as young as 6 years old engaging in sexual activity.
ICE was assisted in the investigation by the FBI, the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office and the Springfield Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy A. Bass, Central District of Illinois, is prosecuting this case.
Thornburg faces up to 30 years in prison, lifetime supervised release, and fines of up to $250,000 if he's convicted of attempting to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity. He faces 10 to 20 years imprisonment and lifetime supervised release if he is convicted of possessing child pornography
Members of the public are reminded that a complaint is merely an accusation; the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
"Many children daily are victimized by child molesters and predators who make contact through the Internet," said Mike Mitchell, acting resident agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Springfield, Ill. "ICE is committed to apprehending and prosecuting anyone who seeks to abuse our children and endangers their lives and well-being. We will continue working closely with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to bring to justice anyone who tries to hurt children."
Thornburg was arrested as part of Operation Predator, a national ICE initiative that protects children by investigating and presenting for prosecution pedophiles, Internet predators, human traffickers, international sex tourists, and other predatory criminals. Since Operation Predator was launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 10,900 child predators and sex offenders nationwide, including more than 550 in Illinois. For more information about Operation Predator, visit www.ice.gov.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. 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.