WILMINGTON, Del. - Special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with the assistance of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI), have arrested Air Force Technical Sergeant Jonathan Amato for receiving and possessing child pornography. Technical Sergeant Amato is assigned to Dover Air Force Base as an instructor at the leadership school. The Delaware State Police (DSP) and Dover Police Department also assisted in the investigation.
Monday's arrest was the result of an investigation that included serving a federal search warrant at the sergeant's off-base residence. The search warrant turned up evidence that Amato violated Title 18, United States Code, Section 2522, relating to the purchase, possession, receipt and/or transfer of child pornography over the Internet.
The United States Attorney's office for the District of Delaware is prosecuting the case.
The arrest is part of ICE's Operation Predator, an international initiative to identify, investigate and arrest subjects involved in criminal sexual activity related to minors. Operation Predator was launched in July 2003 and draws on ICE's investigative and enforcement authorities to safeguard children from sex offenders, human traffickers, international sex tourists and child pornographers.
More than 10,700 offenders have been arrested nationwide as a result of Operation Predator. More than 9,000 of those arrested as part of the operation have been non-citizen sex offenders whose crimes make them removable from the United States. As of today, more than 6,000 have been removed from the United States.
As child exploitation takes many forms, ICE targets a wide-range of violators, including child pornographers, child sex tourists and travel facilitators, human smugglers and traffickers of minors, criminal aliens convicted of offenses against minors and those deported for child exploitation offenses who have returned illegally.
"The international criminal network that produces and distributes child pornography attacks the very fabric of our communities by exploiting the most vulnerable members of society, the children," said John P. Kelleghan, Special Agent in Charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Philadelphia (a jurisdiction which includes Delaware and West Virginia). "This is not a victimless crime and ICE will work tirelessly to target and arrest those who enable this international exploitation by purchasing child pornography."
According to William M. Lowder, Resident Agent in Charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Delaware, protecting children from exploitation is one of the highest priorities for ICE. "Working with the U.S. Attorney's office and other Delaware law enforcement agencies, ICE will continue to aggressively pursue these violators. People who receive and possess child pornography should not be surprised when ICE knocks on the door with a warrant."
There have been 43 Operation Predator arrests since July 2003 in Delaware. Some of the notable arrests include:
- Edward Roe, of Bear, was arrested on April 4, 2007, and pleaded guilty to multiple counts of possession of child pornography and transmitting child pornography over the Internet. Last month he was sentenced to 12 years, 7 months incarceration, with 10 years supervised release.
- Brad Derrickson, of Millsboro, was arrested on March 2, 2007, and pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in September of 2007. In early January of this year, he was sentenced to 3 years incarceration.
- John Gramlich, of Dover, was arrested on Aug. 28, 2007, and indicted in September 2007 for charges related to receipt and possession of child pornography. Gramlich was an active duty member of the United States Air Force and a United States citizen.
- John E. Manning, a Wilmington Police Department retiree, was arrested on Oct. 25, 2007. At the time of his arrest, he was employed by the City of Wilmington as a Health and Safety Program Manager. Manning was subsequently indicted in November 2007 for charges related to possession of child pornography.
- Robert S. Buckley, of Bear, was arrested on Oct. 26, 2007, for receipt and possession of child pornography. Buckley, although not employed at the time of his arrest, previously held a position with the Delaware Boy Scouts of America Leadership Council. He was indicted in November 2007 for receipt and possession of child pornography.
- Philip Graham, of Wilmington, was arrested on Nov. 6, 2007, and was subsequently indicted on charges related to receipt and possession of child pornography.
- Mark Hoffman, of Smyrna, was arrested and subsequently indicted in December 2007 for receipt and possession of child pornography. Edison Amelio Ferreira, of the Dominican Republic, was arrested by ICE and processed for removal from the United States based on his conviction for unlawful sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl. Ferreira, 26, has been removed from the United States.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. Investigators staff this hotline around the clock. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may also 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.