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June 24, 2013London, United KingdomChild Exploitation

British man sentenced to 5 years for enticing 2 American girls to commit sex acts

LONDON – A 27-year-old man was sentenced to five years in a United Kingdom prison for enticing two minor girls residing in Maine to perform sex acts on each other in front of a web camera following a joint investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the South Wales Police.

Benjamin Mahoney, of Creigau, Wales, befriended two minor girls, 11 and 12 years old, in an online chat room in March 2011, and encouraged them to send images of themselves performing sexual acts over the Internet.

"As we’ve seen from this case, law enforcement is truly borderless when it comes to protecting our children," said HSI Attaché London Matthew J. Etre. "We take our work in combating child exploitation very seriously. HSI, along with our partners at South Wales Police, will continue to work tirelessly to trace every clue to find the individual or individuals who commit atrocities against the most vulnerable among us – our children. I hope that this arrest sends a clear message that we will continue to aggressively pursue individuals who engage in this behavior to ensure that there is no place to hide in the United States, United Kingdom or anywhere in the world."

"In June 2011, two girls then aged 11 and 12 reported what had taken place to their local police in the State of Maine," said South Wales Police’s Fairwater Criminal Investigation Department Detective Sergeant Andy Miles. "Following an examination of their computers, Homeland Security Investigations special agents then contacted us to carry out further inquiries. We found that Mahoney had entered the Justin Bieber Tinychat chatroom where he encouraged the girls into performing sexual acts on themselves and one another. Mahoney denied being responsible claiming that people had broken into his home, stolen his passwords and used his computer. South Wales Police will do everything possible to keep children safe from predators like Ben Mahoney and would like to thank HSI for their assistance throughout the investigation."

Following a May trial at Newport Crown Court, United Kingdom, Mahoney was convicted of four counts of inciting a child sex act and two charges of possessing indecent videos. He was jailed at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court June 24.

The investigation was conducted in conjunction with HSI Houlton and the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office in Maine, and the Avon and Somerset Police Departments in England.

The investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI 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. 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 & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.

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.