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April 8, 2021Detroit, MI, United StatesChild Exploitation

HSI investigates a Michigan man for exploiting children results in 50 year sentence

DETROIT — A Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigation of a Michigan man suspected of sexually exploiting children resulted in a lengthy federal prison sentence.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge for the Western District of Michigan made the announcement.

Duane Richard Forrest, 48, of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, was sentenced to a total of fifty years for photographing and videotaping his sexual exploitation of two boys in their early teens. He was also ordered to pay $10,200 in special assessments.

“HSI special agents have a unique mission of protecting the homeland by targeting criminals that exploit our borders, both physically and virtually,” said Vance Callender, special agent in charge, HSI Detroit. “Child sex abuse is a particularly heinous crime that often is perpetrated online, behind a perceived mask of anonymity. HSI works with its state and local partners to bring a network of international resources and foreign law enforcement counterparts to bare against those who seek to exploit our most vulnerable.”

In 2020, witnesses told law enforcement that Forrest had sexually abused two minors he had befriended. Police obtained a search warrant for Forrest’s home and found sexual pictures and videos of multiple children, including the two minors that witnesses had identified. Federal and local authorities then jointly investigated the full scope of Forrest’s criminal activity.

Forrest was charged federally for producing child pornography and eventually pled guilty. A federal charge related to his possession of child pornography that included images obtained on-line was dismissed pursuant to a plea agreement, but the court could still consider that conduct under federal sentencing guidelines.

U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney sentenced him to 25 years in prison for his exploitation of each of the victims. He ordered that the sentences be served consecutively, meaning Forrest’s total federal sentence is 50 years in prison.

“The trauma of sexual abuse can last decades, even a lifetime,” said Birge. “Mr. Forrest’s sentence reflects the seriousness of his crimes and the enduring harm caused when offenders record and preserve their abhorrent exploitation of minors in visual media. Thanks to a partnership between Homeland Security Investigations and Chippewa County, Mr. Forrest was caught and will never be able to victimize the young again.”

“The work these officers did brought justice to the young victims of this crime. I am very proud of everyone involved in this investigation. There is nothing more important than keeping our children safe from predators like Mr. Forrest,” said Sheriff Michael D. Bitnar of Chippewa County.

Forrest was also separately charged in state court and has pled guilty to a state criminal sexual conduct offense, which encompasses additional unrecorded abuse. A sentencing hearing on the state charge is scheduled for later this month.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Austin J. Hakes prosecuted the federal case. It was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, and the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office.

This case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, county prosecutor's offices, the Internet Crimes Against Children task force (ICAC), federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement are working closely together to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children. The partners in Project Safe Childhood work to educate local communities about the dangers of online child exploitation, and to teach children how to protect themselves. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit the following web site: Individuals with information or concerns about possible child exploitation should contact local law enforcement officials.

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.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 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 over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 Special Agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 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.

To report a crime, call 866-347-2423 (TTY for hearing impaired: 802-872-6196) or visit the ICE Tip Line.