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March 24, 2016Denver, COUnited StatesChild Exploitation

Colorado man and woman arrested and charged with producing and transporting child pornography involving an infant

Woman in contact with nannies4hire.com and care.com produced child pornography of an infant at another man’s request

DENVER — A man and woman, both from Colorado, were arrested for producing child pornography involving an infant victim.

These arrests and charges were announced by the following agency heads: U.S. Attorney John Walsh, District of Colorado; Special Agent in Charge David A. Thompson with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Denver; and Lt. Christina Sheppard of the Colorado Springs (Colorado) Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC).

According to evidence presented in open court, as well as arguments outlined in a public filing, in the course of online chats that occurred between Brandi Leonard, 18, and Richard Hennis, 40, spanning about two months, Leonard told Hennis that she had sexually abused an infant. Hennis encouraged Leonard to sexually abuse the infant again, to take pictures of or video the abuse, and to send the images to him. She did. Law enforcement recovered the pictures that Leonard produced of the infant from Hennis’s phone.

Around the same time that Leonard was sexually abusing the infant, she was also corresponding by email with nannies4hire.com and care.com, which are websites that provide services including connecting child-care providers with those who need child care.

Finally, during their chats, the two defendants discuss in graphic detail kidnapping, raping, killing and dismembering a child between 4 and 8 years old. Leonard twice during the chat indicated that she didn’t intend to go through with it, yet she continued to engage in such chats with Hennis.

A U.S. magistrate judge held a detention hearing for Leonard March 17. Leonard was ordered released on bond conditions that included home incarceration. The government appealed the order. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Lewis T. Babcock issued an emergency stay of the release order, and a hearing on the appeal is pending. A U.S. magistrate judge held a detention hearing March 23 on Hennis, and he was ordered held without bond.

Leonard is currently charged with one count of producing child pornography, which carries a penalty of not less than 15 years, and not more than 30 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine. She also faces one count of transporting child pornography, which carries a penalty of not less than five years, and not more than 20 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine. Hennis faces one count of producing child pornography. In addition, he faces one count of advertising child pornography, which carries a penalty of not less than 15 years, and not more than 30 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine. He also faces one count of transporting child pornography.

This case was investigated by HSI and the Colorado Springs Police Department’s ICAC Unit.

The defendants are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alecia Riewerts, District of Colorado.

A criminal complaint is a probable cause charging document. Anyone accused of committing a felony violation of federal law has a Constitutional right to be indicted by a federal grand jury. The charges contained in the complaint are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and 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 14,000 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 2015, nearly 2,400 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 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.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI’s Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

Updated: 03/25/2016