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Child Exploitation

Part-time clown and Santa sentenced to 8 years on child pornography charges

SRINGFIELD, Ill. - An Illinois man, who worked part-time as a clown and Santa Claus, was sentenced on Monday to more than eight years in federal prison for receiving and possessing child pornography. The sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

August R. Billek, 50, of Springfield, Ill., was sentenced Dec. 14 to 100 months in prison after he pleaded guilty in August to receiving and possessing child pornography. During the court hearing, U.S. District Judge Jeanne E. Scott, Central District of Illinois, further ordered Billek to serve a lifetime term of supervised release after he completes his prison sentence.

Billek pleaded guilty Aug. 13 to receiving and possessing child pornography on several occasions in 2008 and 2009. Billek also agreed to forfeit his computer and related equipment to the government. He has remained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since his arrest on May18.

According to court documents, in January 2009 an ICE agent identified a computer offering to participate in distributing what appeared to be child pornography via a "peer-to-peer" computer network. The ICE agent was able to browse the computer, which was later identified as Billek's. The ICE agent identified movie files depicting children engaged in various sexually explicit activities with adult men and women. At the time of his arrest, Billek worked part-time as "Downtown the Clown" and as Santa Claus during the Christmas season.

"People who distribute and possess child pornography victimize the most vulnerable members of our society" said Michael Mitchell, resident agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Springfield. "ICE relentlessly pursues predators who sexually abuse children, including physical abuse, or exploitation by possessing or sharing child pornography."

ICE was assisted in the investigation by the following agencies: the Illinois Attorney General's Office; the Illinois police departments of Springfield, Decatur, and Mattoon; the Illinois Secretary of State Police; and the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly M. Peirson, Central District of Illinois, prosecuted the case.

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. Since Operation Predator was launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 12,000 individuals.

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