Lawson Hardrick, Jr., of Calexico, was sentenced April 29. A federal jury convicted Hardrick in January of two felony counts of possession of images depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The verdict followed a two-day trial before U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn L. Huff.
Hardrick was indicted by in July 2012 on child sex exploitation charges, following a probe by Calexico-based special agents with U.S. Immigration and Custom's Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
According to the court records, HSI special agents identified Hardrick while conducting an investigation targeting individuals using peer-to-peer file sharing programs, which are used to trade child pornography over the Internet. During the trial, the jury viewed sexually explicit videos of children as young as 4 years old that Hardrick had downloaded between 2008 and 2010.
This case is being conducted as part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including Internet child pornographers. As part of Operation Predator, HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free tip line 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.
In the first six months of fiscal year 2013, HSI child sexual exploitation investigations nationwide resulted in the arrest of more than 960 suspects and the rescue of more than 330 juvenile victims. Nineteen of the suspects were arrested in San Diego and Imperial counties.