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Child Exploitation

Florida man sentenced to 10 years for receiving child pornography

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Jacksonville area man was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on a federal child pornography charge, following an investigation by the Volusia County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Bryan Ross Spears, 39, of Palm Coast, Fla., pleaded guilty on Sept. 15 to receiving child pornography over the Internet. After the sentencing hearing, Spears was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service to await designation to a federal prison. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender and to serve 10 years of supervised release following his prison term.

According to court documents, in April, a detective with the Volusia County Sheriff's Office used a database that allowed her to view Internet Protocol (IP) addresses in the surrounding geographical area that had access to and/or were trading child pornography over the Internet. Using this database, the detective determined that one or more computers using an IP address was hosting images of child pornography. Further investigation led to the address of a residence located 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 an 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 and that various computers were used for business purposes, including a desktop computer located in one of the bedrooms that was used by Spears. The owner agreed to allow agents to take custody of one desktop and two laptop computers for forensic analysis.

The 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. Several of the videos depicted sadistic sexual conduct involving young children. Additionally, approximately 14,537 chat log files were saved to the computer used by Spears between Jan. 3, 2008, and May 24. The chat logs examined during the forensic analysis were sexual in nature, and some related to sexually explicit conduct involving children, including the molestation of very young children by adults.

This case 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 and 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.