PENSACOLA, Fla. - A joint agency investigation that included U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) led to a Pensacola man pleading guilty in federal court to child pornography charges March 27.
Richard Allen Weeks, 35, pleaded guilty to receipt and possession of child pornography in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida late last week.
Weeks was indicted by a federal grand jury on these two counts of violating federal law regarding the exploitation of children online. Weeks admitted Friday that he used the Internet to download images and videos of child pornography from late 2008 through early 2009.
Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant on Weeks' home after his use of file sharing programs enabled them to track Weeks' activity. This resulted in the discovery of a significant amount of child pornography on Weeks' laptop computer and external hard drives. During the search, officers also found and seized digital camera cards that contained images of Weeks engaged in sexual acts with a minor relative.
Weeks will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers on June 26, 2009. He faces a mandatory minimum of 5 years to a maximum 20 years imprisonment, and a life term of supervised release thereafter.
The investigation was spearheaded by the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, commonly known as the "ICAC." The ICAC includes the Pensacola Police Department, the Milton Police Department, the Pensacola Junior College Police Department, the Fort Walton Police Department, the Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton County Sheriff's Offices, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Office of the Attorney General, the Florida Division of Probation and Parole, the Florida Division of Children and Family Services and Child Protection Team, ICE, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
"The North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is a prime example of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies working together to form an excellent team of unified professionals dedicated to catching those responsible for this kind of perverse behavior," said Sue McCormick, special agent in charge of the ICE Tampa Office of Investigations. "Without these kinds of partnerships, this outcome might not have been achieved."
This case was investigated under Operation Predator, which is 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. 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.
This case was also part of Project Safe Childhood. In February 2006, the Department of Justice created Project Safe Childhood, a national initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information on Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.