The investigation was conducted by special agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Pensacola, the FBI, the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, the Pensacola Police Department and the other members of the Northwest Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, whose joint efforts led to Dawkins' arrest and plea.
The investigation into Aaron Dawkins, 28, of Shalimar, Fla., began when an undercover law enforcement officer in Toronto, Canada, learned that he was sharing child pornography on a publicly available peer-to-peer file sharing network. The officer in Toronto contacted U.S. authorities to follow up on the information.
"Through partnerships with state, local and other federal law enforcement agencies, ICE will continue to vigorously investigate child exploitation cases like this one," said Susan McCormick, ICE special agent in charge of ICE-HSI in Tampa, Fla.
Special agents with ICE and the FBI were able to download child pornography directly from Dawkins's computer via the Internet. Once law enforcement confirmed Dawkins' residence, a federal search warrant was obtained and executed in June.
Multiple items of electronic media were seized during the search, including thousands of images and videos of child pornography on Dawkins' computer. Also located on the computer were numerous "chats" with others involved in online child exploitation. The forensic review of a digital camera card owned by Dawkins also revealed images he took of himself engaged in sexual acts with a child who was about two years old.
Dawkins is set to be sentenced on Nov. 18 before U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers.
He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years for each charge of producing and advertising for child pornography. Both charges have a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment. He also faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for each charge of transporting and receiving child pornography. He faces an additional 10 years in prison for possessing child pornography.
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.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David L. Goldberg, Northern District of Florida, is prosecuting this case.