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Child Exploitation
12/06/2011

North Dakota man pleads guilty to possessing, distributing child pornography

FARGO, N.D. — A North Dakota man pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to possessing and distributing child pornography. The case resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the cooperation of the North Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Clifford Sweeney, 52, of Emerado, N.D., pleaded guilty to possessing and distributing materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors.

On Jan. 11, Sweeney uploaded the child pornography to an adult pornographic website. This information was reported by the website's owners to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which in turn, referred the information to the North Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The tip led to a search of Sweeney's residence where various electronic media were seized. A forensic examination of the seized items revealed hundreds of images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Sweeney faces a possible maximum statutory penalty of 10 years imprisonment for possessing child pornography and a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment for distributing child pornography. Sentencing for the case has been set for Feb. 27, 2012, in U.S. District Court in Fargo, N.D.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE 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 encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or 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 and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.