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Child Exploitation

Former state government children services employee pleads guilty to production of child pornography

TAMPA, Fla. - A former state of Florida employee pled guilty here Wednesday in federal court to charges of production of child pornography following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Albert Andre Zimmerman, a former state spokesperson for the Florida Department of Children and Families, pled guilty to one federal charge of production of child pornography. Zimmerman, 41, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

According to the plea agreement, from October 2004 through December 2007, Zimmerman persuaded six teenage boys in Hillsborough and Orange counties to engage in sexually explicit conduct and to email him pictures of their behavior. Zimmerman also offered to pay, and in some cases did pay, the boys for the images. He also claimed he was selling the images to a third party who would then distribute those images overseas. At times, Zimmerman provided instruction to the boys concerning the poses they should assume for the photos. Zimmerman, formerly of Tallahassee and Lakeland, was arrested on a federal complaint on February 11, 2008, and was indicted on April 16, 2008.

"It is always troubling to find out that someone who is placed in a position of public trust could potentially use that position to commit crimes, especially ones as heinous and perverse as these," said Sue McCormick, special agent-in-charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Tampa. "However, our agents are aware these conditions can and do exist and they will continue to work tirelessly to identify and arrest those who prey upon our most vulnerable."

The case was jointly investigated by ICE, the Florida Attorney General's CyberCrime Unit, the Jacksonville Field Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Tampa Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Colleen Murphy-Davis.

This case was investigated under Operation Predator, which is 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 11,600 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.

This case was also part of Project Safe Childhood. In February 2006, the Department of Justice created Project Safe Childhood, a national initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information on Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.