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Child Exploitation

Amateur photographer indicted on multiple child pornography charges

FRESNO, Calif.-A 45-year-old Fresno man, who aspired to be a professional photographer, was indicted by a federal grand jury here today on charges of sexual exploitation of a minor, possessing material involved in the sexual exploitation of minors, and trafficking in child pornography.

James Vincent Thorson is accused of using a minor to produce a visual depiction of that minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The indictment is the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Fresno Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) Task Force. Thorson also allegedly trafficked in child pornography from December 2006 through December 15, 2008.

An investigation into the possible sexual abuse of minors by the defendant is currently being conducted by the Fresno County Sheriff's Department with assistance from ICE. Anyone with information that might assist in that investigation is urged to contact Fresno County Sheriff's Office Sexual Abuse Unit Sergeant Kevin Smith at 559-488-3901 or Detective Andrea McCormick at 559-488-3747.

"We are extremely concerned about the possibility there may be more young victims in this case who have not yet been identified and continue to assist the Fresno County Sheriff's Department with that aspect of the investigation," said Brian Poulsen, resident agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Fresno. "The suspicion that this defendant used his photography skills to gain access to young people and engender the trust of their parents is particularly disturbing. Some predators mistakenly believe the anonymity of cyberspace shields them from scrutiny, when in fact, it gives us new tools in our enforcement efforts to protect children."

Thorson came to the attention of law enforcement after the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children notified the Fresno ICAC that someone using the name "Youngurges" had uploaded numerous images of child pornography to the Web site entitled Photobucket.

Earlier this week, ICE agents executed a search warrant at the residence associated with the account user (Thorson). In a subsequent interview with agents, Thorson admitted he had uploaded images of child pornography to a Photobucket account and used the peer-to-peer file-sharing program Limewire to exchange images of child pornography. Thorson said he knew this conduct was illegal, but that it was not a "big deal," and child pornography laws are too severe and need to be "tweaked." Thorson also told agents that he frequently photographed young girls, and that his goal was to become a professional photographer.

The charges in this case are the result of ICE's Operation Predator and the Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood, national initiatives targeting those who sexually exploit children. Since Operation Predator was launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 11,500 individuals nationwide. 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 http://www.cybertipline.com. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

Thorson was ordered detained as danger to the community this afternoon. His next court date is January 26, 2009, at 9:00 a.m. The indictment also seeks to forfeit items used in connection with the commission of the offenses.

If convicted of the charges, Thorson faces a maximum of 30 years in prison, a potential fine of $250,000, and lifetime term of supervised release.