LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas-based U.S. Air Force captain was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on one count of child pornography distribution and one count of child pornography possession following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI).
Shane Padilla, 30, of Jacksonville, Arkansas, a U.S. Air Force C-130 pilot stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, was initially arrested on the charges April 4. He faces between five years and 20 years in federal prison as well as a $250,000 fine if convicted of the charges.
"Child predators come from all walks of life, and parents everywhere must be vigilant because these threats aren't always easily seen," said HSI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer Jr. "This case shows HSI is committed to investigating and seeking prosecution of dangerous criminals regardless of a person's position in society in order to protect our children."
Parmer oversees a five-state region including Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.
According to court documents, the HSI investigation into Padilla began in May 2013 as part of a larger investigation conducted by HSI special agents in Savannah, Georgia. Based on information uncovered during that investigation, HSI Little Rock was notified that Padilla allegedly received child pornography via a Yahoo email account. A federal search warrant was issued and data regarding Padilla's email account revealed the presence of numerous email messages between May 2013 and July 2013 containing images and/or videos of minors engaged in sexually explicit acts.
AFOSI subsequently assigned a military agent to participate in the investigation, and executed a military search warrant resulting in the seizure of several electronic devices from Padilla. The devices were turned over to an HSI computer forensics analyst after a federal search warrant was issued for the devices. According to the criminal complaint, HSI found more than 1,000 images and 100 videos depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit acts on the devices.
Assistant United States Attorney Kristin Bryant is prosecuting the case on behalf of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Christopher R. Thyer.
"Having to prosecute these types of cases is always difficult," stated Thyer. "It is even more difficult when the indictment is against a member of our armed forces sworn to protect the United States. I am committed to, and consider it one of my highest duties as United States Attorney to prosecute to the full extent of the law those, no matter their position in society, who exploit the innocence of our children."
The media and the public are reminded that criminal charges are merely accusations and that these defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE 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 & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.