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September 29, 2020Cartagena, ColombiaCyber Crimes

ICE Cartagena opens forensic lab to combat transnational cyber crime

ICE officials awarded medal for Meritorious Service from Colombian partners
Left: National Colombian Police with Special Agent Miguel Palomino (second from left), Regional Attaché Brian Vicente (fourth from left), Ops Manager Randy Richardson (far right). | Top Right: Regional Attaché Brian Vicente | Bottom Right: Assistant Attaché Antonio Crespo

CARTAGENA, Colombia – The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) receives computer forensics equipment from HSI Cyber Crime Center (C3) that will support criminal investigations in the city of Cartagena and the surrounding region. The creation of Transnational Cyber Crimes Investigative Laboratory (TC2IL) is critical to supporting the fight against the sexual exploitation of children and disrupting transnational crimes.

HSI Cartagena and the National Police of Colombia marked an important milestone in Cartagena’s fight against the cybercrimes that have impacted the community with the opening of TC2IL Sept. 28. During the inauguration of the TC2IL, HSI Operations Manager Randy Richardson, Assistant Attaché Antonio Crespo, and Regional Attaché Brian Vicente were awarded the Colombian National Police Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Interpol Medal for Meritorious Service. The medal signifies the significant contributions made by ICE-HSI to combat child exploitation in the region and securing computer forensic equipment pursuant to these critical efforts.

The forensic laboratory will strengthen the technical capacities of both the Colombian police and the prosecutors. The equipment will be used to combat the crimes where high-tech electronic means are necessary to obtain criminal evidence through data extractions. With this computer forensic equipment, experts can now mobilize to legally extract deleted and encrypted data from both mobile phones and laptops, among other equipment. TC2IL is the second forensic laboratory in Colombia supported by ICE-HSI and C3. The first lab, Yuliana Samboni Laboratory, was stood up in 2018 in Bogota, Colombia. This lab was created following the joint investigation of the abduction and murder of a Colombian minor, Yuliani Samboni.

“We thank the directorate of criminal investigation and Interpol for the commitment and collaboration to the investigative resources of computer forensics” said HSI Bogota Regional Attaché Brian T. Vicente. “We would also like to thank the Metropolitan Police of Cartagena for the space, logistical requirements, and especially the unwavering partnership. And lastly, to our ICE-HSI Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Virginia, for the contribution of computer forensic equipment.”

C3 delivers computer-based technical services to support domestic and international investigations into cross-border crime. The Center specializes in cybercrimes, investigations of child exploitation, and computer forensics – to include evidence recovery. With this computer forensic equipment, HSI and their Colombian partners will not only focus on dismantling transnational criminal organizations that use cyber capabilities to further their criminal enterprise, but also track down child predators with the assistance from C3’s Child Exploitation Investigations Unit (CEIU). CEIU investigates producers and distributors of child sexual abuse material, as well as individuals who travel abroad for the purpose of engaging in sex with minors, also known as transnational child sexual abuse. CEIU employs the latest technology to collect evidence and track the activities of individuals and organized groups who sexually exploit children through the use of the dark web, chat rooms, peer-to-peer trading, and other internet-based platforms.

“As the world becomes increasingly digital, HSI's top priority is to combat criminal activity conducted on or facilitated by the internet,” said Vicente. “With this forensic equipment, we will be able to work with our Colombian partners to investigate and rescue child victims from sexual exploitation, combat professional money laundering schemes, and more.”

The forensic lab is part of our larger efforts to combat cybercrimes through our iGuardian program recently established in the local Cartagena-based schools. The iGuardian Project is committed to combating the sexual exploitation of minors by providing children, teens, parents and teachers with information regarding the potential dangers of online environments and how to stay safe online and ultimately prevent instances of child exploitation. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing an online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199.