BOSTON — A local federal prosecutor, who has a well-earned reputation for successfully prosecuting cases investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Boston, received top honors from the agency Friday. He was honored for his outstanding professional achievements as a leading member of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Yoon was recognized for his contributions to federal child exploitation prosecutions, particularly Operation Holitna. His work with HSI, focused on child exploitation investigations, has resulted in the arrests of numerous child predators worldwide.
Operation Holitna is an ongoing HSI-led investigation that originated in Boston in 2010. In November 2010 the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts and HSI Boston arrested Robert Diduca on child pornography production charges. He was convicted and subsequently sentenced in June 2012. Forensic analysis of Diduca's computer led investigators to the Netherlands where a Dutch national was arrested and charged with production, distribution and possession of child pornography, as well as the sexual abuse of 87 minors. Since the launch of this worldwide operation, more than 160 children have been rescued and 50 perpetrators arrested worldwide.
"The grim reality is that online child exploitation is a very real part of our modern lives and it is going on throughout the world, right now, on a grand scale," said ICE Director John Morton. "Thanks to the expertise of Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Yoon - who has demonstrated his unwavering commitment to prosecuting these types of cases - child predators are being brought to justice each and every day. Michael's dedication to the cause ultimately led to the discovery of the largest case of child exploitation in Dutch history."
"During his time in the Major Crimes Unit, Michael demonstrated unwavering commitment to prosecuting child exploitation cases," said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, District of Massachusetts. "It was Michael's extraordinary ability to balance the complexity of a constantly expanding case - that demanded the collaboration of national and international law enforcement agencies - which led to the prosecution and sentencing of Robert Diduca and a vast network of online child sex offenders. We are fortunate to have such a passionate and dedicated prosecutor working on our team."
His expertise on prosecuting these cases continues to this day, as Operation Holitna continues to arrest pedophiles who are sexually abusing children and producing child pornography in Europe, Asia and North America.
HSI special agents, who have worked closely with Assistant U.S. Attorney Yoon for years stated:
- "There was never a day or night that Michael wouldn't respond to calls from HSI Boston for assistance - even at 2:30 in the morning. His efforts were constantly going above and beyond the normal expectations special agents have of federal prosecutors."
- "He is the most responsive assistant U.S. attorney I have ever worked with in my career. When working with Mike, there was never any doubt we were one team."
- "Mike has a unique blend of legal experience - with an investigator's mindset - which fit perfectly with the goals of Operation Holitna. Without his guidance and support, I am certain that we wouldn't have achieved the many successes over the past two years."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Yoon has been assigned to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts since 2010. From 2005 to 2010, Yoon worked as a trial attorney in Washington for the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. He has been recently reassigned to the U.S. Attorney's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
Operation Holitna, and other New England-based investigations that 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, are run out of HSI's state-of-the-art forensic laboratory in Boston. This facility, located in the John F. Kennedy Federal Building, assists federal, state and local law enforcement authorities in New England with a wide range of forensic investigative support in cases that are often complex, and require significant examination and analysis.
The forensic lab prepares investigators as they team with other state and local investigative experts, as well as prosecutors throughout New England. Several other federal, state and local law enforcement authorities have expressed their support of efforts to strengthen investigative techniques to remain competitive with the ever-changing world of scientific technology. The lab employs the latest technology to collect evidence and track the activities of individuals and organized groups who sexually exploit children through the use of websites, chat rooms, newsgroups and peer-to-peer trading. As Internet access continues to expand, the forensic lab brings the full range of HSI computer and forensic assets together in a single location to combat such Internet-related crimes.
These types of investigations are part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Learn more at www.ICE.gov/predator.