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Child Exploitation

Former soldier sentenced to 5 years for transferring obscene material to minor

HOUSTON - A former soldier was sentenced on Monday to five years in federal prison for transferring obscene matter to a minor, announced U. S. Attorney José Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Robert Douglas Dewitt, 20, was sentenced to 60 months by U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner in Houston. Dewitt will also serve a three-year-term of supervised release during which the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children and prohibit his use of the Internet. Additionally, he will be required to register for life as a sex offender, and has been prohibited from contacting the victim or her family.

Dewitt was charged in a four-count indictment returned on July 14. The indictment charged him with providing obscene material by means of a cellular telephone and the Internet to a minor on four occasions between Jan. 14 and Feb. 10. Dewitt was attending basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., at the time of the indictment. The minor resides in Ft. Bend County and met Dewitt online through MySpace. Dewitt was taken into federal custody by ICE HSI on July 21, in Springfield, Mo., and appeared before a U.S. Magistrate Judge there. He was ordered detained and then transferred to Houston. On Sept. 28, he pleaded guilty to count one as alleged in the indictment.

Dewitt admitted that around August 2009 he sent a friend request on MySpace to the victim, whose profile stated she was 18 years old, when in fact she was only 12. Dewitt and the victim communicated regularly by both phone and computer during which time the victim informed Dewitt that she was 12 years old. However, he told the victim that it was okay to continue their friendship/relationship. Dewitt admitted he sent to the victim multiple sexually explicit photos as well as videos of him masturbating. In turn, the victim sent him sexually explicit photos of herself.

The ICE HSI investigation determined that Dewitt used a mobile phone to talk, text and send photos and videos to the victim. A forensic examination of the victim's family computer indicated he requested and encouraged the victim to send sexually explicit pictures to him. In addition, the forensic examination of that computer as well as Dewitt's mobile phone also recovered the exchange of sexual images and videos, provocative text and electronic mail, and music with sexual content, during the period of Jan. 8 through Feb. 23. Among the recovered files, the examinations also discovered a total of 10 videos of Dewitt masturbating, and at least four nude photos of himself.

The charges against Dewitt resulted from an investigation conducted by members of the ICE HSI Cyber-Crime Operation Predator Squad dedicated to investigating online exploitation of children and child pornography, and the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Demetrius K. Bivins, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.

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.

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.