DETROIT – A Canadian man pleaded guilty Tuesday to attempting to travel to the United States to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Steven Eric Locher, 53, of Chatham, Ontario, pleaded guilty to the charges in federal court. The plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade, Eastern District of Michigan; and Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE HSI for Michigan and Ohio.
"Parents should be aware of the ways in which child predators use the Internet to target victims,” said U.S. Attorney McQuade. "This case demonstrates that these dangers are very real."
"This case shows the nexus between strong and effective border law enforcement and the safety of the public and in this instance our children," said Special Agent in Charge Moskowitz. "HSI will continue to aggressively target those engaged in this type of behavior."
According to court documents, Locher was arrested last August at the Marine City, Mich., Port of Entry after he attempted to travel to visit a female, who he knew was a minor. The investigation revealed that Locher and the minor had engaged in an illegal online relationship. In an interview, Locher admitted to HSI agents that he had inappropriate sexual contact with the minor prior to his arrest.
During his attempted Aug. 2011 visit, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, searching his vehicle, found a note from the minor and were able to confirm her age and address. Locher was arrested that same day and has remained in custody since.
Officers from the Marine City Police Department assisted with the investigation.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE 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. ICE HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline 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 and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.