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October 24, 2018Chicago, IL, United StatesChild Exploitation

Chicago-area man faces child pornography, extortion charges

CHICAGO – A suburban Chicago man was charged Tuesday with threatening to publish sexually explicit photos of an underage girl unless she created child pornography for him.

This indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr., Northern District of Illinois, and Special Agent in Charge James M. Gibbons, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

David J. Cottrell, 28, of Niles, Illinois, is charged with two counts of transporting child pornography, one count of extortion, one count of inducing a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity, one count of attempting to produce child pornography, one count of producing of child pornography, and one count of possessing child pornography.

According to the indictment and the government’s memorandum in support of detention, Cottrell in 2014 induced the underage victim into sending him sexually explicit photos through the internet.

After collecting semi-nude photos of the victim, Cottrell informed her that he knew her real name, the name of her school, and her parents’ jobs, and he threatened to post the images online and send them to her family unless the girl sent him additional, more explicit images, the government’s memorandum states.

The victim complied with Cottrell’s demands by creating and sending additional photos and videos to him, the memorandum states.

Cottrell contacted the victim on a near-daily basis until her parents discovered the messages in 2017 and contacted law enforcement, according to the memorandum. 

While communicating with the victim, Cottrell used the names “sevendollarcab” and “b88785” on the Kik and Snapchat online applications, and introduced himself as “Dave,” the memorandum states.

Cottrell appeared Tuesday in federal court in Chicago before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason and was ordered detained in federal custody. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles W. Mulaney, Northern District of Illinois will prosecute this case.

The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

If convicted, Cottrell faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

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 16,000 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 2016, more than 2,600 child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 800 victims identified or rescued.

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. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.

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 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.