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Child Exploitation

Social Security employee accused of accessing child pornography at work

SEATTLE – A 49-year-old federal employee from Lynnwood made his initial appearance in federal court Wednesday on child pornography charges following his arrest at the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in Seattle.

Thomas Joseph Barrett, a senior case technician with the SSA, is accused of using his government computer to view child pornography. According to the complaint filed in the case, the SSA obtained evidence of inappropriate Internet use during work hours by the defendant in November 2012. A review of Barrett's Internet history and an examination of his computer's hard drive produced evidence that he had viewed child pornography. Investigators also found that he had accessed news stories about the penalties for possessing and distributing child pornography. Barrett has been placed on indefinite leave by the SSA.

The case is being investigated by the SSA's Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Washington State Patrol. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington is prosecuting.

Accessing child pornography with intent to view is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This 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.