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May 24, 2023Charleston, WV, United StatesOperational

HSI Charleston personnel recognized for outstanding contributions to law enforcement in West Virginia

Left: U.S. Attorney Will Thompson (left) recognized HSI Special Agent Brian Morris for his work on a recent human trafficking investigation at the annual Crime Victims Assistance Awards Ceremony at the West Virginia State Capitol May 9. | Right: HSI Charleston personnel recognized for their work with Project Safe Childhood. From left: U.S. Attorney Will Thompson, WVSP Trooper Michelle Shaffer, HSI Criminal Analyst Chris Powell, Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Herrald, Computer Forensic Analyst Fred Pickering, HSI Special Agent Terrance Taylor. HSI Forensic Interview Specialist Candice Cooper is not pictured.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia recently recognized several members of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Charleston for their work in combating crime in West Virginia. The HSI Charleston special agents and support staff received recognition during two separate ceremonies in Charleston in May 2023.

HSI Charleston Special Agent Brian Morris was recognized at the annual Crime Victims Assistance Awards Ceremony May 9 at the West Virginia State Capitol Building for his human trafficking investigation into a former law enforcement officer who recently received convictions for sex trafficking and obstruction charges. Morris’ investigation resulted in the individual’s conviction and the identification and rescue of his victim.

Morris, who serves as a chairperson on the West Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force, was also recognized for his vast experience with human trafficking cases and his outreach work that has contributed greatly to raising the awareness of human trafficking in West Virginia.

“We are extremely honored that so many of our HSI Charleston special agents and support staff were recognized for their outstanding investigative work,” said HSI Washington, D.C. Special Agent in Charge Derek W. Gordon. “These amazing law enforcement personnel truly go above and beyond in their investigations to ensure that our West Virginia communities are safer places. HSI Washington, D.C. is proud to have such amazing people in our ranks, and they represent thousands of other HSI federal law enforcement personnel working hard to keep our communities safe.”

Additionally, four law enforcement professionals from HSI Charleston were recognized for their work with Project Safe Childhood at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia 2023 Law Enforcement Awards on May 17at the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse in Charleston.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia recognized HSI Charleston Special Agent Terrance Taylor, Computer Forensic Analyst Leland “Fred” Pickering, Forensic Interview Specialist Candice Cooper and Criminal Analyst Chris Powell for their work with their work in the investigation into a former elementary school counselor. The counselor received a 25-year prison sentence for attempted production of child pornography and attempted enticement of a minor. West Virginia State Police Trooper Michelle Shaffer was also recognized for her contributions to the investigation.

The HSI Charleston investigation revealed that the defendant used the Snapchat instant messaging application to target multiple minor females. He knew several of the minor females through his position as a school counselor. The HSI investigation further revealed that the defendant obstructed justice by deleting the Snapchat account he used to engage in these activities after HSI Charleston searched his residence and seized numerous electronic devices containing child sexual abuse material.

“These are the men and women who keep our communities safe. They represent the ideals of law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Will Thompson. “Through these awards, we particularly seek to honor collaborative efforts, in the way of joint investigations or partnerships formed to spearhead criminal justice initiatives.”

Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched by the Department of Justice in 2006. Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.

HSI is 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 more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 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.