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Child Exploitation

Maryland man sentenced to more than 18 years in prison for sexually exploiting a minor to produce child pornography

BALTIMORE — A Maryland man was sentenced today to 18.5 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release, for sexually exploiting a minor to produce child pornography. The sentence is the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

John E. Widdows, 72, of Cumberland, Md., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg. Widdows must also register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, District of Maryland, Special Agent in Charge William Winter of ICE HSI in Baltimore, Cumberland Police Chief Charles H. Hinnant, and Allegany County State's Attorney Michael O. Twigg.

"The court's sentence clearly reflects the seriousness of the crime committed by John Widdows," said Special Agent in Charge Winter. "Our children have an absolute right to grow up free from the fear of sexual exploitation. Homeland Security Investigations, along with our law enforcement partners, will not tolerate such despicable crimes. While we can't erase the pain and suffering this young woman experienced, law enforcement will continue to relentlessly pursue predators who sexually abuse children, whether that abuse is physical in nature or if it is accomplished by exploiting their images."

According to Widdows' plea agreement, law enforcement seized from Widdows' home three videos of the victim, a prepubescent female, engaging in sexually explicit conduct at Widdows' direction and at least 100 additional images of child pornography. The first video was made on Jan. 17, 2005, when the victim was nine years old and Widdows was 67 years old. The other two videos were made later that year and also show the molestation of the victim by Widdows.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE 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.

ICE HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE. 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.

U.S. Attorney Rosenstein commended HSI, the Cumberland Police Department and the Allegany County State's Attorney's Office for their work in the investigation and prosecution.

U.S. Attorney Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark W. Crooks and Sandra Wilkinson who prosecuted the case.