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Child Exploitation

70-year-old sentenced to 75 months in federal prison for distributing child pornography

CHICAGO — A 70-year-old Indiana man, who traveled to the Chicago area to have sex with a 15-year-old girl, was sentenced to six years and three months in federal prison Thursday for distributing child pornography. This sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Donald Strickland, of Hammond, Ind., was sentenced April 19 by U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber, Northern District of Illinois, to 75 months in federal prison without parole.

Strickland pleaded guilty March 25, 2010 to two counts of distributing child pornography. According to court documents, in February 2007 Strickland began chatting online with "Teri," who he thought was a 15-year-old girl; Teri was actually an undercover special agent. During the chats, Strickland told Teri he wanted to teach her about sex, and he sent her sexually explicit images and videos containing child pornography.

Strickland made arrangements to travel to Wheaton, Ill., to meet and have sex with the girl. On March 13, 2007, he arrived at the meeting place and was arrested by HSI special agents. Strickland has been in federal custody since his arrest.

"Through Operation Predator, HSI aggressively investigates anyone who sexually exploits children," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago. "Our special agents act as a barrier between sexual predators and the most vulnerable members of society – our kids. We will continue to vigilantly combat child exploitation and abuse, whether it is happening in the neighborhood playground or in cyber space." Hartwig oversees a six-state area that includes Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Schneider, Northern District of Illinois, prosecuted the case. The Wheaton Police Department assisted in the investigation.

The case is part of HSI's Operation Predator, a nationwide initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who sexually exploit children, and Project Safe Childhood, a Department of Justice effort launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

As part of Operation Predator, 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 and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.