The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Patrick Mergen, 40, of Sewell, N.J., was sentenced to 25 years in prison for manufacturing child pornography and an additional 10 years on the possession of child pornography charge, both to run concurrently, by U.S. District Court Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg. Mergen was also ordered to serve two concurrent terms of 10 years of supervised release.
Mergen, along with Laura Shauger, 35, of Quakertown, Pa., were arrested Aug. 21, 2012, by HSI special agents.
According to the HSI investigation, Mergen and Shauger shared sexually explicit photos of a minor child at Mergen's request. Mergen and Shauger were both identified after HSI special agents received a lead from the Victoria Police in Australia indicating that Mergen was trading child pornography with a pedophile in Australia. HSI special agents conducted a search of digital media devices belonging to Mergen, which confirmed the findings. Mergen was also in possession of additional child pornography. The HSI investigation also resulted in the identification of a second minor child victim.
"Criminals like Mergen will be held accountable for their despicable actions, as today's sentence demonstrates," said John Kelleghan, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. "Our children suffer endlessly every time those images are retransmitted, downloaded, shared or viewed by predators. HSI will be relentless in aggressively tracking down these child predators wherever they perpetuate these heinous crimes."
Shauger is pending trial.
This investigation was 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-2ICE 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, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.