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April 30, 2021Midland, TX, United StatesChild Exploitation

Former West Texas firefighter pleads guilty to possessing child pornography

MIDLAND, Texas – A former firefighter in Odessa, Texas, pleaded guilty Friday to possessing child pornography and using his cell phone on his employer’s network to access child pornography.

Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Midland investigated the case with the assistance from the Odessa Police Department.

Jeremy Lee Barrera, 36, former firefighter with the Odessa Fire Department (OFD), admitted in federal court he used his cell phone on the OFD network to access an online chat room where several videos, which depicted child pornography, were posted. He pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography.

According to court documents, HSI special agents conducting an online child sex exploitation investigation identified two local IP addresses used by an account registered to a “Ray Jones” to enter an encrypted online group chat whose members were viewing child pornography. One IP address was registered to OFD Station #2; the other was registered to Barrera’s residence.

Based on that information, HSI special agents executed a search warrant at Barrera’s residence on Jan. 25. During that search, agents seized the defendant’s cell phone. HSI computer forensic special agents examined the cell phone, and discovered it contained multiple videos and images depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit activity. The forensics examination of the cell phone also discovered approval remarks by the defendant about child pornography posted in the chat room as well as requests for additional links to child pornography that he communicated in multiple chats using the moniker “Ray Jones”.

“Individuals, such as Barrera, who send or receive child pornography revictimize children each time these illegal images are distributed online,” said Erik P. Breizke, special agent in charge for HSI El Paso. “Child exploitation is one of the most serious crimes HSI investigates, because of the lasting physical and psychological damage inflicted on innocent and vulnerable victims, and we will continue to pursue these perpetrators and ensure serious consequences for their heinous crimes.”

Barrera is in federal custody. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Shane Chriesman is prosecuting this case.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the United States and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.

HSI is a directorate and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries.

HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement. HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS and a vital U.S. asset in combatting transnational crime and threats. One of HSI’s top priorities is to protect the public from crimes of victimization, and HSI’s child exploitation investigations program is a central component of this mission set. HSI is recognized as a global leader in this investigative discipline, and is committed to utilizing its vast authorities, international footprint and strong government and non-government partnerships to identify and rescue child victims, identify and apprehend offenders, prevent transnational child sexual abuse, and help make the internet a safer place for children.