This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Secret Service (USSS), and Pearland Police Department, in conjunction with the Houston Metro Internet Crimes against Children Task Force.
Aurelio J. Ariaz, 27, was sentenced to 97 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Gregg Costa. The sentence will be immediately followed by 15 years of supervised release, where he must comply with a number of special conditions designed to protect children and prohibit the use of the Internet. He will also have to register as a sex offender and must pay $2,000 in restitution. Ariaz entered a guilty plea Nov. 14, 2012.
"Child pornography is the permanent record of the sexual exploitation of children, and this victimization continues every time that image is transmitted, downloaded, shared, or viewed," said Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. "ICE agents take special pride in their role of seeking justice on behalf of those children who have been exploited and victimized."
This investigation began in 2011 when USSS agents and Pearland police officers both downloaded videos and images containing child pornography from a computer located at Ariaz's residence in Galveston.
When agents executed a federal search warrant on Oct. 14, 2011, Ariaz indicated he knew why they were at the residence. He admitted using a peer-to-peer file-sharing program to download child pornography for about two years and possessing nearly 500 images and videos in his file-sharing program. Ariaz also said most of his images were of boys 12 and 13 years old, but that he may have some as young as 7 and 8 years old. His Dell computer and HTC MyTouch cell phone were seized at that time.
A forensic exam was conducted resulting in the discovery of 852 images and 519 videos of child pornography. Forensics agents found at least 10 images of child pornography had been downloaded using the file-sharing program as late as Oct. 1, 2011. These images depicted prepubescent and pubescent males in a lascivious display of their genitals.
Ariaz was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility, which is to be determined in the near future.
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.