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Child Exploitation

ICE arrests youth martial arts instructor in child pornography investigation

Tehachapi girl identified as a victim

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A photographer, who describes himself as a "former mixed martial arts fighter," appeared here in federal court Friday to face child pornography charges stemming from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Kern County Sheriff's Department.

Eric Crosby, 35, was taken into custody by ICE agents in Tehachapi, Calif., Friday morning. The martial arts instructor was indicted on charges of producing, distributing and possessing child pornography. The arrest caps a two-month investigation that revealed Crosby used the Internet to trade child pornography, including images previously produced by unknown individuals overseas. Crosby, who provides martial arts training to children and adults, was in the process of opening his own martial arts studio prior to his arrest.

While executing a search warrant at Crosby's Tehachapi residence April 20, ICE agents seized a voluminous amount of child pornography, including images depicting infants and other prepubescent children being sexually abused by adult males.

Further review of the evidence seized from Crosby's home revealed pornographic images of a victim identified as a 14-year-old Tehachapi girl. The images were produced during "modeling" sessions conducted by Crosby, who previously produced and published calendars of scantily clad adult women to promote a mixed martial arts clothing line.

"Every time a sexually explicit image of a minor is produced, transmitted or viewed, a child is victimized," said Michael Toms, resident agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Bakersfield. "With this arrest, we are sending a message to consumers of child pornography that they can't mask their illegal activities or their identities by using the Internet."

If convicted of distributing and possessing child pornography, Crosby faces a maximum penalty of up to 30 years in prison and a fine of as much as $500,000. The production of child pornography charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 30 years in prison and fine as much as $500,000.

The investigation is part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign-national predators. ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may 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.