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Child Exploitation

Southwestern Missouri man indicted on child pornography charges

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A southwestern Missouri man was indicted in federal court Wednesday for trading child pornography.

This indictment resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force.

Frank Edwin Ness, 44, of Joplin, Missouri, was charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury. Ness' indictment replaces a federal criminal complaint that was filed against him on July 17.

The indictment alleges that Ness received and distributed child pornography via the Internet between Jan. 1, 2004 and July 16, 2014.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the previous criminal complaint, authorities executed a search warrant at Ness's residence July 16 and seized his desktop computer. Investigators found at least 124 videos containing child pornography when they previewed the computer.

The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require Ness to forfeit to the government any property used to commit the alleged offense, including his computer.

The charge contained in this indictment is simply an accusation, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charge must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including producing and distributing online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE 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-THE-LOST.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

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.