These charges were announced by U.S. Attorney John Walsh, District of Colorado, and Special Agent in Charge Kumar Kibble, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Denver.
Minh Thong, 30, was originally arrested at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) as he attempted to travel to Hong Kong. Thong appeared in federal court in Los Angeles (the Central District of California). A U.S. Magistrate Judge there ordered U.S. Marshals to transport Thong to Denver.
Thong made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Denver Feb. 10 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer, where he was advised of his rights and the charges pending against him. Thong is scheduled to next appear before Magistrate Judge Shaffer Feb. 13 for a detention hearing and for arraignment.
Thong was first charged by Criminal Complaint Jan. 20; he was indicted by a federal grand jury Jan. 27.
According to court documents, including the affidavit in support of the original Criminal Complaint, on July 10, 2013, an HSI special agent in Seattle, while functioning in an undercover capacity, used the Internet to connect to a Peer-to-Peer file-sharing program (aka FSP). The special agent was able to download child pornography from a specific person using a specific username at a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address. The special agent was not only able to download child pornography, the special agent was also able to view thumbnail images before choosing which images or videos to download.
Further investigation revealed that the IP address resolved at an address in Denver, and was registered to Minh Thong. A federal search warrant for Thong's residence was then obtained and executed. Special agents and officers found child pornography on Thong's computer. Thong obtained child pornography from others using Peer-to-Peer software. He also produced child pornography by accessing video chat websites where individuals can see each other using a webcam. Thong used a program to play a video of a younger female or younger male so that the minor person on the other end of the webcam chat believed they were chatting with someone other than Thong. During those chats Thong was able to convince users on the other end of the chats to disrobe and/or masturbate. He recorded the video chat and saved the files. Special agents are in the process of identifying minor victims.
"Our HSI special agents are dedicated to investigating predators who misrepresent themselves on the Internet to sexually exploit our children," said Kumar C. Kibble, special agent in charge of HSI Denver. "These predators who produce child pornography electronically memorialize their horrific acts against children, and share these images with like-minded depraved individuals. To protect children from being sexually exploited, HSI is a federal law enforcement leader in investigating these crimes against children domestically and internationally."
Thong is charged with one count of producing child pornography, which carries a penalty of not less than 15, and not more than 30 years imprisonment, and up to a $250,000 fine. He faces one count of distributing child pornography, which carries a penalty of not less than five years, and not more than 20 years imprisonment, and up to a $250,000 fine. Thong also faces one count of possessing child pornography, which carries a penalty of not more than 10 years imprisonment, and up to a $250,000 fine.
This case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Anyone who may have been deceived by Thong is asked to contact the HSI Tipline toll-free at 1 (800) 347-2423, or submit a tip on the Internet at: www.ice.gov/tips.
Thong is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alecia Riewerts Wolak, District of Colorado.
The charges contained in the government filings 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 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including producing and distributing online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking 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.