NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have teamed up with federal prosecutors in Connecticut to put child predators on notice regarding intensified efforts to aggressively identify, investigate and prosecute those who engage in child exploitation. The notice was coupled with a warning that there will be no refuge for child sexual predators who believe that they can pursue their perverse behavior with anonymity and impunity online.
"ICE prioritizes child exploitation cases with a firm commitment to provide the highest level of investigative support necessary to successfully prosecute them," stated Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Boston. Foucart oversees ICE HSI throughout New England. "Working as a team with the U.S. Attorney's Office and our partners in law enforcement, HSI will send a clear message to the public that these types of crimes will continue to receive our undivided attention."
The U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, David B. Fein issued a news release in New Haven, and promised an unwavering commitment to bring those who prey on children, particularly on the Internet, to justice.
"Because of the infinite nature of the Internet, these images will exist forever and the victims will continue to be victimized for the rest of their lives," said Fein. "We will continue to investigate these crimes and prosecute offenders constantly to protect the children in our society."
In a summary of more recent child exploitation cases in Connecticut, ICE HSI acknowledged the dedicated professionalism of the investigating agents and the successful prosecutions that have resulted in significant penalties for those who engaged in this vile behavior.
In March 2011, Jonathan Zahra, 27, of Plainville, Conn., waived his right to indictment and pleaded guilty to one federal count of manufacturing child pornography. The investigation revealed that Zahra sexually assaulted at least one child and manufactured, received, distributed and possessed child pornography. Zahra, a former employee with the Plainville Public School System, and a former mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Connecticut, faces sentencing in June.
In March 2010, Joseph Rock, 41, of Old Saybrook, Conn., was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison followed by five years of supervised release for trading child pornography on the internet.
The investigation began when Rock communicated online with a target of an ICE HSI investigation into child pornography in the Fresno, Calif., area. ICE HSI agents searched his computer and discovered more than 600 images of child pornography, including images of children under the age of 12.
In April 2010, William Golia, 74, of New Haven, was sentenced to five years in prison followed by five years of supervised release after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography. ICE HSI special agents conducted a court-authorized search of Golia's residence and seized evidence that eventually revealed more than 600 images and videos of child pornography.
In July 2010, Edgardo Sensi, 53, a resident of Florida and Connecticut, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and sexual tourism offenses related to his sexual abuse of young girls in the United States and Nicaragua. ICE HSI agents documented several trips Sensi made to Nicaragua where he conspired with a woman to coerce a four year old child to engage in sexually explicit conduct. The records also show that Sensi videotaped sexual encounters with the woman and her daughter. Sensi is awaiting sentencing.
In December 2010, Douglas Perlitz, 40, was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release for sexually abusing at least eight minor children over a 10 year period in Haiti. The sentencing of Perlitz followed a guilty plea to traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.
Frequently, these crimes are traced internationally in coordination with the ICE HSI Cyber Crimes Center (C3). The Center's Child Exploitation Section (CES) investigates the trans-border large scale production and distribution of images of child abuse, as well as individuals who travel abroad to engage in sex with minors.
The CES 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. These investigative activities are organized under Operation Predator, a program managed by the a nationwide ICE HSI initiative to 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.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
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.