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Child Exploitation

Houston man sentenced to 78 months in prison for possessing child pornography

HOUSTON - A local man was sentenced to 6½ years in prison on Monday for possessing child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno of the Southern District of Texas. The sentencing followed an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Keith Nathan Symmank, 48, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore to 78 months in federal prison without parole for the possession of child pornography conviction, followed by 10 years of supervised release. Symmank must also register as a sex offender and abide by a number of special conditions strictly limiting his access to the Internet and prohibiting contact with minors.

The investigation began after investigators in the United Kingdom (UK) identified a Web site used to post images of child erotica. The Web site also served as a meeting place for individuals with a sexual interest in children and allowed members to communicate with each other and to post comments concerning the posted images.

The UK investigators got a copy of the server and identified members of the Web site. Symmank was identified as one of the members. Members of the website earned "points" that allowed them more access by posting images and comments on the website. The email address associated with Symmank on the website was traced to him and his Houston residence.

Houston ICE agents received the lead from the UK investigators and executed a search warrant at Symmank's residence on Oct. 1, 2008; they seized two desktop computers, one external hard drive and a number of CDs. A forensic analysis of the seized items resulted in discovering 2,417 child pornography images and two videos on one of the desktop computers, the external hard drive and three CDs.

Symmank admitted that he had visited the UK website to download images associated with child pornography and to fantasize about the child pornography images he had seen. Symmank has been in federal custody since his January 2009 arrest and will remain in custody to serve his sentence.

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. Since Operation Predator was launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 12,000 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.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Stabe, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.