As a thank you for their investigative work and dedication to an international child predator case with a nexus to Kentucky, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear recently commissioned U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent Michael Romagnoli and Detective Sergeant Nathan Coutts of the London Metropolitan Police's International Assistance Unit, as Kentucky Colonels.
This accolade stems from a case that began in May 2011 when a British national started interacting with a 14-year-old girl in Pikeville, Ky., on a social media website. Initially, these conversations were unassuming and friendly in nature. However, over the course of the next 12 months, they progressed into sexually explicit conversations. As time passed, Solomon Blue Waters, 41, became more brazen in his approach. This ultimately fueled his desire to travel to the United States to engage in illicit sexual acts with the girl. When Waters arrived at the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Ky., he thought he was meeting the young girl. Instead he was met by a team of law enforcement officials.
Upon deplaning, Waters was arrested and charged with traveling in interstate or foreign commerce to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity and with traveling to the United States to engage in illicit sexual conduct.
"It took a tremendous amount of international cooperation to stop Waters before he had the opportunity to carry out his intentions with the young girl," said Romagnoli of HSI Chicago, which is responsible for northern Kentucky. "It was truly an international collaborative effort."
State, federal and international law enforcement agencies all assisted from their respective locations to thwart the predator. Upon learning about Waters' illegal interaction with the young girl, the Kentucky State Police reached out to Romagnoli, a former Kentucky state trooper who has been with HSI since May 2009, for HSI's assistance. Romagnoli coordinated with the HSI London attachÃ©, who, in turn, requested the assistance of the London Metropolitan Police at New Scotland Yard. This coordination between law enforcement agencies made it possible to arrest Waters in the United States, while the London Metropolitan Police and HSI searched his residence in London.
Waters is currently being held while awaiting his court appearance. Convictions on the charges could carry a minimum of 10 years and as much as 30 years in prison.
The commissioning as a Kentucky Colonel is the highest award bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Individuals are commissioned based on their contributions to their community, state or nation, and for special achievements.
Romagnoli now finds himself among an elite group, which includes John Glenn, Ashley Judd, Betty White, Muhammad Ali and George Clooney – all of whom have been commissioned as Kentucky Colonels.
In addition to the commissioning, the Kentucky House of Representatives honored the duo with a citation to offer "sincere expressions of gratitude" for their "immeasurable contributions to this vital effort."
"I'm from Kentucky; so for me, it is truly an honor to be recognized by the commonwealth," said Romagnoli. "You don't get into law enforcement for accolades, but when you get a chance to contribute to an international investigation that ultimately puts a bad guy in jail, it is very gratifying."