PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A federal grand jury in Providence has returned indictments charging four individuals with receipt of and possession of child pornography. Two of the defendants also face charges of allegedly distributing child pornography. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (RI ICAC).
Federal indictments against the four were sought by U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island Peter F. Neronha as a result of a state and federal multi-agency investigation earlier this year into child exploitation. For several months, members of the RI ICAC, in conjunction with the U.S. attorney's office and the Rhode Island attorney general's office, initiated an undercover online investigation dubbed "Operation Safe Child." In August, search warrants were executed at more than twenty Rhode Island residences from which investigators successfully obtained direct Internet downloads of child pornography.
As a result of these downloads, search warrants were obtained and more than 100 federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel consisting of Rhode Island State Police, ICE HSI, United States Marshals Service (USMS), RI ICAC Task Force affiliates, Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS), and Probation and Parole executed twenty-six search warrants throughout the state. Upon execution of the search warrants, detectives discovered thousands of images of child pornography and videos. Child protective services personnel from the Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF) and the Day One Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) assisted.
Federal indictments have been returned against Jason Bidondi, 35, of Central Falls, R.I.; Paul N. Hutchinson, 27, of Barrington, R.I.; Robert L. Macgregor, 48, of Pawtucket, R.I.; and Gerard R. Proulx, Jr., 34, of Pawtucket charging each with receiving and possession of child pornography. Bidondi and Macgregor are also charged with distribution of child pornography. The defendants will be summonsed to U.S. District Court in Providence.
The remaining defendants arrested as a result of "Operation Safe Child" are facing charges in Rhode Island state courts.
The RI ICAC is a Department of Justice grant-funded program administered by the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit, comprised of five State Police detectives, detectives from the Providence Police Department, West Warwick Police Department, Coventry Police Department, and an agent from ICE HSI. The objective of the RI ICAC is to form strong working relationships between local, state and federal law enforcement in order to effectively and efficiently prevent, detect, investigate, and prosecute online child exploitation and child pornography crimes.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE 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.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.