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Child Exploitation

Florida man pleads guilty to receipt of child pornography

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Florida man pleaded guilty Thursday to receiving videos depicting child pornography over the Internet, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.

Bryan Ross Spears, 39, of Palm Coast, Fla., faces five to 20 years in federal prison and a potential life term of supervised release. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

In April 2011, a detective with the Volusia County Sheriff's Office identified an Internet Protocol address that had access to and was hosting images of child pornography. Further investigation led to the address of a residence in Palm Coast.

ICE HSI special agents responded to a request for assistance from the Volusia County Sheriff's Office and joined the investigation. The agents went to the Palm Coast residence to interview the occupants. During a consensual interview with the owner of the residence, the agents explained that the ongoing investigation pertained to child exploitation material that had been downloaded from the Internet by someone at the owner's residence. The owner advised that he operates a small business from his home, employing two individuals, one of whom was Spears. The owner agreed to allow the agents to take custody of one desktop and two laptop computers for forensic analysis. The owner advised that each computer was used by a different individual, and that the desktop computer located in one of the bedrooms was used by Spears for business purposes.

According to court documents, subsequent forensic analysis of the three computers revealed that the desktop computer used by Spears contained approximately 10 video files containing child pornography. The child pornography video files were downloaded by Spears using two Internet file sharing programs. Additionally, thousands of chat logs were found on the desktop computer he used. Approximately 14,537 chat log files were saved to the computer between January 3, 2008 and May 24, 2011. All the chat logs examined during the forensic analysis were sexual in nature, and some related to sexually explicit conduct involving children.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney D. Rodney Brown.

The investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign-national predators whose crimes make them deportable.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is 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.