This sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Richard Zachary Gardner, 23, of Anderson, Ind., was sentenced March 14 to 70 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, Southern District of Indiana.
"Through our Operation Community Watch initiative, we have joined with state and local partners to make clear that we will not tolerate child exploitation in Indiana," Hogsett said. "With innovation and vigilance, we are unmasking these online predators and holding them accountable for their criminal activity."
In August 2012, a detective with the Indiana State Police (ISP) was conducting undercover investigations into the sharing of child pornography on the Internet. The ISP detective downloaded files containing images of child pornography from a computer he later learned belonged to Gardner.
On Nov. 26, 2012, HSI special agents and ISP detectives went to Gardner's residence and were granted consent to enter and search the home. Law enforcement located a laptop computer inside the residence. A forensic analysis of this computer revealed hundreds of videos and images of child pornography, including depictions of sexual abuse against children younger than age 12 and sadistic and masochistic conduct. Gardner admitted downloading and receiving the images of child pornography located on the laptop.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney MaryAnn T. Mindrum, who prosecuted the case, Gardner was also sentenced to 10 years of supervised release after he completes his prison term. He must also comply with state and federal requirements as a registered sexual offender.
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.