According to court documents, Harder chatted online for more than a year with an undercover ICE special agent, whom he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. During the chats, he repeatedly requested that the girl take sexually explicit photographs of intimate parts of her body and e-mail them to him.
Harder had also sent the "girl" a digital camera by U.S. mail to take the pictures and e-mailed sexually explicit photographs of adult women to show her how to pose in the photographs. Additionally, he e-mailed his intentions to travel to Florida and engage in explicit sexual encounters with the child.
"This sentencing shows that there are serious consequences for attempting to exploit children," said Susan McCormick, ICE special agent in charge of the Office of Investigations in Tampa.
When Harder was arrested, a search of his computer revealed hundreds of images of child pornography and chats with numerous other underage individuals. He had used various social networking to establish online profiles, contact underage girls and participate in sexually explicit chats.
Further investigation revealed that, between 2007 and 2009, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Cyber Tip Line (see contact information below) had received more than a dozen complaints about someone who was engaging in sexually explicit conversations online with girls under the age of 18 that traced back to e-mail accounts used and maintained by Harder.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mandy Riedel and Stacie Harris.
The investigation that led to this case was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign-national predators whose crimes make them deportable. Launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 12,800 individuals through 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.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U. S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.
For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.