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Child Exploitation
09/26/2013

Previously convicted sex offender sentenced to prison for child pornography possession

BALTIMORE – A Cumberland, Md., man was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison, followed by lifetime of supervised release for possessing child pornography.

Harold Michael Nicol, 53, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis, who ordered that upon his release from prison, Nicol must register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. In 1997, Nicol was convicted of a sex offense in the Allegany County Circuit Court.

The sentence follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore, the Maryland State and Cumberland Police and the Allegany County State Attorney’s Office.

In November 2011, during an undercover Internet investigation into a file sharing program, an undercover officer downloaded four files containing images of a prepubescent minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct with adults. Additional investigation determined that the files were being made available for download by Nicol from his home computer. A search warrant was subsequently executed at Nicol’s Cumberland residence. Computers and computer storage media were seized, along with a .270 caliber rifle and a .50 caliber muzzle loader rifle. Because of his previous felony conviction, Nicol is prohibited from possessing firearms. Nicol’s computers and storage media were forensically examined and revealed that Nicol possessed more than 400 images of child pornography.

The investigation was 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.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the "resources" tab on the left of the page.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Judson T. Mihok.