Lewis Gaudinier, 47, of Madera, Calif., was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon based on a criminal complaint charging him with receipt of child pornography. Gaudinier remains in custody and is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy R. Jehangiri.
Gaudinier originally came under suspicion after HSI special agents and investigators assigned to the Central California Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, determined that a computer traced to Gaudinier's residence was receiving images of child pornography via peer-to-peer software. According to the criminal complaint, the alleged illegal activity took place from approximately Dec. 24, 2011, through Feb. 4.
As part of the probe, task force investigators executed a state search warrant at Gaudinier's Madera residence. A forensic analysis of the computer found in Gaudinier's home revealed at least 1,000 image and video files of child pornography. Those files primarily showed girls, ranging from approximately 3 to 14 years of age, posed in sexually explicit positions and engaging in sex acts.
"Every time these compromising images and videos are viewed, the children in them are victimized again," said Paul Leonardi, resident agent in charge of HSI Fresno. "Children have the right to be safe from Internet predators. That is why HSI will continue to work closely with its law enforcement counterparts to vigorously investigate these cases and seek justice for the innocent victims."
Receiving material involving the sexual exploitation of minors carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison. The charges in the complaint are only allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The investigation is part of HSI's Operation Predator, a nationwide initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who sexually exploit children, and Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a Department of Justice effort launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.
As part of Operation Predator, HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. 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.
Led by U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section in the Justice Department's Criminal Division, PSC marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about PSC, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov or call the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California and ask to speak with the PSC coordinator.