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Child Exploitation

Former Maryland firefighter pleads guilty to child pornography production and possession

BALTIMORE – An Owings Mills, Md., man pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a minor and to production and possession of child pornography, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), FBI, Baltimore Police Department and Baltimore County Police Department.

Anthony Maurice Cottle, 23, must register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

According to his plea agreement, in June and July 2012, Cottle, a former firefighter with the Baltimore County Fire Department, engaged in sexually explicit conduct with two minor males in order to produce visual depictions of the abuse, including two videos. Cottle produced one video that depicts the genitalia of a minor male and Cottle performing sex acts on the boy. Cottle produced a second video depicting the genitalia of another minor male. More than 600 images of child pornography were recovered from Cottle’s computer and cell phone.

In addition to the videos produced by Cottle, images of several other child victims, whom Cottle solicited to send him photos of their genitals, were found. Cottle admitted that on some occasions he used video chat to capture the image live and on other occasions the minor would send a photograph via cellular phone.

Cottle faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years in prison, followed by up to lifetime of supervised release, for production of child pornography and a maximum of 10 years in prison for possession of child pornography. U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander scheduled sentencing for July 18.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the DOJ Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood and information about Internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI 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. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 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, 1-800-843-5678.

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.

The Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Baltimore County Fire Department assisted in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ayn B. Ducao for the District of Maryland.