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Child Exploitation

Pittsburgh area man sentenced to 30 years for sexually exploiting children

PITTSBURGH - A local man was sentenced to federal prison today for exploiting children, including one child under his care. Michael Penwell, 41, of New Castle, Pa., was sentenced in federal court in Pittsburgh to 30 years in prison to be followed by a life term of supervised release for violating federal child sexual exploitation laws. The investigation in this case was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

According to the court record, Penwell sexually molested a young child in 2008. During the molestation, Penwell and took sexually explicit photographs and distributed the photographs to other people via the Internet. He also distributed sexually explicit images of many other children. At the time of Penwell's arrest in October 2008, he possessed hundreds of graphic sexually explicit images and videos of children. In addition, Penwell engaged in many chat conversations on the internet during which he expressed his desire to engage in sexual acts with a child and to watch other adults engage in sexual acts with a child.

"The content of evidence in this case demonstrates the depravity of these predators. Penwell exploited a child in his care," said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Homeland Security Investigations in Philadelphia. "People who produce, distribute and possess child pornography victimize the most vulnerable members of our society and they will not go unpunished."

ICE was assisted by the Pennsylvania State Police and the New Castle Police Department.

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.