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Child Exploitation
04/15/2009

Seattle children?

SEATTLE - An information technology worker at the Seattle Children's Theatre (SCT) was arrested Tuesday morning by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on charges of possession of child pornography.

William Edgar Hoke, 38, of Seattle, was taken into custody at his home after ICE agents served a criminal search warrant there as part of an ongoing international investigation into individuals who used password-protected websites to post and trade child pornography. Agents simultaneously served a criminal search warrant at SCT to gather additional evidence.

According to the affidavit filed in federal court, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) received information in January 2007 from Europol regarding an investigation in more than 30 countries of individuals who were producing, trading and possessing child pornography via the Internet.

In February 2008, law enforcement seized the server that housed one of the bulletin boards and linked it to more than 545 registered members. A subsequent investigation determined that an e-mail address associated with Hoke had registered with the bulletin board in November 2005 and made 260 postings.

After the server was seized, a similar child pornography bulletin board was established. Investigators seized the bulletin board's server in September 2008. An investigation revealed that an e-mail address associated with Hoke had registered on the second bulletin board and 60 posts were made between April and September 2008 from his home and work computers.

"ICE has zero tolerance for those who choose to sexually exploit our children in this manner," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations. "ICE will use all of the investigative tools at our disposal to identify and arrest those who are involved in child pornography."

During the course of ICE's investigation, it was revealed that Hoke was employed as the director of information services at SCT. However, there is no indication that Hoke had unsupervised contact with children at SCT.

Possession of Child Pornography is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years to lifetime supervised release. Hoke is in custody at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, Wash., pending a detention hearing at 3:30 this afternoon in federal court.

The arrest of Hoke is part of Operation Predator, a comprehensive ICE initiative aimed at those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign national predators whose crimes make them deportable.

Additional information about Operation Predator is available on the Web at www.ice.gov. ICE encourages the reporting of 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 & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.