OROVILLE, Calif. — A former Hilliard, Ohio, man who absconded during a federal child pornography probe, and was the latest fugitive to be profiled on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) smartphone app, is in custody Monday after turning himself in to local authorities in California.
Jeremiah Malfroid, 33, surrendered Saturday to the Butte County Jail in Oroville, California, where he is being held on federal child pornography charges.
Malfroid was charged in the Southern District of Ohio by criminal complaint Oct. 20 for production, receipt, distribution and possession of child pornography and was added to the ICE Predator App shortly thereafter. Following a search of Malfroid’s former Columbus-area residence in connection with the probe, officers with the Franklin County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) found nearly 700 sexually explicit videos and images of minors on his laptop computer and other digital media. Malfroid absconded after the ICAC search and investigators believed he was in Northern California.
Authorities followed up on several tips in the intervening months and began to close in on Malfroid’s exact whereabouts. On Dec. 9, a user-generated Facebook post indicating Malfroid’s fugitive status was created using content published by ICE and information from Malfroid’s app profile. By Dec. 15, the post had been shared nearly 200,000 times. Authorities believe the additional pressure from social media contributed heavily to Malfroid’s surrender.
“The public’s tips and help in this case were essential to bringing a dangerous criminal off the streets. We wish to thank everyone who submitted tips,” said Franklin Country Sheriff Zach Scott. “The public’s engagement is necessary for law enforcement to protect our citizens.”
Within 36 hours of its launch last fall, the app helped Detroit HSI special agents apprehend a Michigan man, who was later convicted and sentenced on federal child pornography charges.
The iOS version of the ICE Predator App launched in September 2013. In October, ICE launched the Android version and Spanish versions for both operating systems. More than 130,000 users have downloaded the app across all platforms.
ICE's Operation Predator App allows users to receive alerts about wanted predators, to share the information with friends via email and social media tools, and to provide information to HSI by calling or submitting an online tip. Additionally, the app allows users to view news about the arrest and prosecution of child predators and obtain information about ICE and its global partners in the fight against child exploitation. This year, the app was nominated as one of eight finalists for "Best App" in the PR News' 2014 Social Media Icon Awards.
The smartphone app is 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 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.