2 central California men face lengthy sentences for child exploitation offenses
FRESNO, Calif. - Two central California men face lengthy prison sentences following their conviction in unrelated child pornography cases investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Derek Jerome Pitre, 58, of Clovis, Calif., was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill to 17 years and one month in prison for receiving child pornography. The prison sentence will be followed by a lifetime term of supervised release during which his access to computers, the Internet, and minors will be restricted. Pitre will also be required to register as a sex offender.
This case was the result of an investigation by ICE HSI and the the Fresno and Clovis police departments. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gappa prosecuted the case.
According to court records, Pitre came under suspicion when Fresno Police Department detectives determined he was the owner of a laptop computer that contained a large quantity of child pornography. That computer initially was the subject of a burglary investigation, because it had been stolen. Separately, an anonymous source informed the Clovis Police Department that Pitre was in possession of a large quantity of child pornography in Clovis. When a search warrant was executed at Pitre's residence, several computers and electronic storage devices were seized. Subsequent forensic analysis of these items uncovered approximately 80,000 still images and more than 4,200 videos of children being sexually abused and exploited. Investigators also recovered numerous e-mail messages from Pitre. One message described his "burning and intense desire and need for intimate contact with a Lolita" and the "delight and sensuous joy that can only be brought to us in the inimitable form of a precious 11-year-old girl who is not shy about showing me everything I paid to see."
Investigators arrested Pitre in April 2010 at his former residence in Clovis. When they searched his vehicle, they located two large bags filled with printed images of young girls being sexually abused by adult males. They also recovered a letter he had written to a minor female in which he expressed his sexual desire for her and indicated that "I'm taking the chance you'll tell someone and I will go to prison for a long time."
Investigators also recovered a cell phone that contained images of the minor female, numerous images of abandoned buildings, and several voice recordings by Pitre which stated his desire to take the minor female to these abandoned buildings. Investigators subsequently learned about a storage shed that Pitre maintained in Clovis. When a search warrant was executed at that location, numerous boxes and bags containing tens of thousands of printed images of child pornography were recovered. Pitre has been detained as a danger to the community and a flight risk since his initial appearance in federal court in May 2010.
In a second unrelated investigation, Anthony Bernard Ellrodt, 38, of Bakersfield, Calif., pleaded guilty Friday before Judge O'Neill to possession of child pornography. Ellrodt agreed to serve a prison sentence of 11 years to be followed by a term of supervised release of at least 25 years during which his access to computers, the Internet, and minors will be restricted. He also will be required to register as a sex offender.
The charges against Ellrodt are the result of an investigation by ICE HSI that originated with a lead called in to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's (NCMEC) CyberTipline. Assistant United States Attorney David Gappa is prosecuting the case.
According to court documents, NCMEC notified Bakersfield ICE HSI agents that someone had uploaded a single image of what was believed to be child pornography to a photo-sharing website. Upon further investigation, agents connected the image to Ellrodt. Subsequently, investigators executed a search warrant at Ellrodt's residence. A forensic review of evidence seized during that search revealed Ellrodt had possessed approximately 423 images of child pornography. He admitted in court Friday that some of the images were of prepubescent minors, some depicted violence, and that he had obtained all of them over the Internet. In 1994, Ellrodt was convicted in Harvey County, Kansas for aggravated indecent liberties with a child, for which he was sentenced to a 32-month prison term.
Ellrodt, whose formal sentencing is set for May 6, has been detained as a danger to the community and a flight risk since his initial federal court appearance in October 2010.
The investigations targeting both defendants were conducted under the auspices of ICE's Operation Predator and the Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood (PSC), national initiatives targeting those who sexually exploit children. The public is encouraged to report suspected child predators and suspicious activity by contacting ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE; and NCMEC, at 1-800-843-5678 or https://report.cybertip.org/. For more information, visit http://www.projectsafechildhood.gov or call the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California and ask to speak with the PSC coordinator.