BRUNSWICK, Ga. – A Jesup man was sentenced to 110 years in federal prison Monday after pleading guilty to producing child pornography in a case investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Stephen Keating, 53, was arrested in November 2012 after Danish police officials found images of an unknown suspect abusing two children on a computer they seized in a child pornography investigation.
The images were referred to ICE’s Cyber Crimes Center, which determined they were produced in Georgia and referred to HSI’s Savannah office. Special agents there quickly identified Keating as the perpetrator and arrested him.
Evidence presented at the guilty plea and sentencing hearings showed that between 2009 and 2011, Keating repeatedly sexually molested three children under the age of 12 to create pictures and videos of that conduct. He then distributed images of the abuse. In addition to those three children, further investigation following Keating’s guilty plea revealed that he had sexually molested another 12 minor victims whose abuse was not captured on film.
"The hideous abuse Stephen Keating inflicted on more than a dozen children can never be erased, but hopefully his victims can find some comfort in the fact that he will never again be a free man," said Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of HSI Atlanta. "This investigation is a perfect example of the revolution in international law enforcement cooperation in cases involving child exploitation and victim identification. After Danish police first discovered the photos, and less than 24 hours after we identified Keating as the perpetrator, HSI and a host of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies were searching his residence, putting him in handcuffs and rescuing his victims."
"This defendant’s lengthy sentence represents the lifetime of pain and anguish he has brought upon his victims. Depraved acts such as these will bring together every facet of law enforcement to garner the severest punishment allowed by law. Protecting this country’s children is the highest priority for the Department of Justice and this United States Attorney’s Office," said U.S. Attorney Edward J. Tarver.
Each count of child exploitation to which Keating pleaded guilty carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, followed by at least five years of supervised release. The count of distribution of child pornography carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, followed by at least 5 years of supervised release. Keating was also ordered to register as a sex offender.
Keating's case was part of Operation Sunflower, a November 2012 national operation aimed at rescuing victims and targeting individuals who own, trade and produce images of child pornography. His three victims were among the 44 children directly rescued as part of the operation.
This investigation was also 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 encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
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.