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January 25, 2021Washington, DC, United StatesChild Exploitation

HSI, Australian Federal Police identify 245 victims of child exploitation by predator posing as popular YouTube star

WASHINGTON — An investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) resulted in the arrest of a 25-year-old Australian citizen who is now facing a total of 247 charges related to 245 alleged child victims in the United States.

In 2019, HSI special agents in Tallahassee, Florida, received information from the Leon County (Florida) Sheriff's Office (LCSO) regarding the exploitation of minors throughout the U.S. by an individual in Australia. The individual was masquerading as a popular YouTube star in order to befriend minor females and gain their trust. He then blackmailed the minor victims and instructed them to film themselves doing various sexually explicit acts, many of which involved physical contact with other minors and/or animals.

HSI reached out to the AFP to help identify the predator in Australia. With the assistance of Western Australia Police (WAPOL), AFP quickly identified the subject in Western Australia and initiated Operation ESK. HSI Canberra provided support to Operation ESK by obtaining subscriber details from YouTube for the offender, and both the previous and potential victims. Forensic examination of the subject’s social media account led to the identification in October 2020 of 112 U.S. victims of online child exploitation and upon continued investigation an additional 134 by January 2021. The subject was arrested by AFP and is currently in custody.

“Child exploitation is a heinous crime that is happening far too often on social media sites used by our children,” said HSI Regional Attaché for Oceania, Adam Parks. “These investigations will continue to be our top priority to ensure that children around the world are protected from sexual predators. Thanks to our close partnership with the Australian Federal Police and Western Australia Police, we were able to identify this predator and protect future children from falling victim to this monster.”

Operation ESK is a joint investigation between HSI Canberra, AFP, and WAPOL, with assistance from HSI Tallahassee, LCSO, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

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. The HSI International Operations Division is the Department of Homeland Security’s largest investigative presence overseas. Division personnel serve as liaisons to governments and law enforcement agencies across the globe and work side-by-side with foreign law enforcement on HSI investigations.

For more information about HSI’s efforts to protect children from online sexual abuse, visit the iGuardians program. To report a crime, call 866-347-2423 (TTY for hearing impaired: 802-872-6196) or visit the ICE Tip Line.