HSI Philadelphia received information from the Pennsylvania Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force alleging Van N. Epps, 36, of Philadelphia, was involved in distributing and receiving child pornography via the Internet. Epps has a previous state conviction for crimes against children.
In May 2011, HSI Philadelphia special agents, with the assistance of the Philadelphia Police Department, executed a federal search warrant at Epps' residence in Philadelphia. Special agents seized numerous items, including computers and other electronic media. Epps also admitted to having viewed child pornography on his computer.
Epps was subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury on April 5, 2012. The next day, HSI special agents executed a federal arrest warrant on Epps at his Philadelphia residence. He was turned over to the U.S. Marshals Service and subsequently released on bail.
Epps pleaded guilty to the charges Feb. 6.
This investigation was also 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 1-866-347-2423 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, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.