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Child Exploitation

Former kindergarten teacher indicted for sexually exploiting children on Caribbean island nation

HOUSTON - A federal grand jury has charged a former kindergarten teacher at the International School of Curacao with molesting children at the school and taking pornographic photographs of some of his students. The charge was announced by U. S. Attorney José Angel Moreno and John Connolly, acting special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston.

Stephen Wayne Sudduth, 35, of Sealy, Texas, is charged in a seven-count indictment returned by a Houston grand jury on Sept. 15 with engaging in illicit sexual conduct with his students in a foreign country; the charges accuse him of producing, transporting and possessing child pornography.

Sudduth has been in the custody of the State of Texas in Austin County since his July 2009 arrest by officers with the Texas Attorney General's Office Cybercrime Unit. He is pending transfer into federal custody to face the federal charges filed Sept. 16.

The international investigation leading to the federal charges against Sudduth is being conducted by ICE HSI special agents and the Texas Attorney General's Cybercrime Unit. A local agency is also jointly investigating; the Public Prosecutor's Office is a special task force unit in Curacao comprised of Dutch and local law enforcement officers and the equivalent of the juvenile sex crimes unit of the Curacao Police Corps.

According to allegations in the indictment, Sudduth was hired as a teacher in August 2006 by the International School of Curacao in Willemstad, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, which is an island nation in the Carribbean. The private school has a K-3 (3-year-old) to 12th grade student population. For school years 2006-2007 and 2007-2008, Sudduth taught K-4 (4-year-olds); and in 2008-2009 he taught K-5 (5-year-olds). He also provided tutoring and babysitting after school to these children.

Sudduth is accused of two counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with his students from August 2007 through June 2009. The indictment also accuses him of three counts of sexually exploiting his students by using, persuading, inducing, enticing and coercing the students to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing visual depictions of sexually explicit conduct. He's also accused of transporting the visual depictions in interstate and foreign commerce, and possessing video and still images of child pornography obtained via the Internet on a computer.

Sudduth faces a sentence of up to 30 years imprisonment if convicted of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country, and a minimum of 15 years up to 30 years imprisonment if convicted of producing child pornography. Transporting child pornography carries a minimum of five years and up to a maximum of 20 years imprisonment upon conviction. Possessing child pornography carries a maximum of 10 years incarceration. All charges also carry a maximum fine of $250,000 as possible punishment. If convicted of any of the charged offenses, after he completes any imposed prison term, Sudduth also faces a maximum life term of supervised release; the court can also impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children and prohibit him from using the Internet.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers. Since Operation Predator was launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 12,000 individuals.

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.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Stabe, southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.