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June 11, 2018Boston, MA, United StatesChild Exploitation

ICE HSI 'Dark Web' child pornography case leads to 5 years in federal prison for Connecticut man

NEW HAVEN — A Connecticut man was sentenced June 8 in federal court to five years in federal prison and five years of supervised release for possessing child pornography, after his conviction in a 'Dark Web' investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New Haven, Connecticut.

The HSI operation led by special agents in New Haven, Connecticut revealed in 2017 that Michael Hull, 61, of Shelton, Connecticut was accessing the dark web to search for, view and download child pornography. In May 2017, HSI agents and Shelton, Connecticut Police officers conducted a court-authorized search of Hull's Connecticut residence and seized approximately 16 electronic devices, including computers and external hard drives. Forensic analysis of the seized devices revealed 13 images and 126 videos of child pornography, including many images and videos depicting children younger than 12 engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Among the items seized were two encrypted tablets and an encrypted hard drive that could not be searched.

"Thanks to the tireless work of our Homeland Security Investigations New Haven office, in close coordination with our local and state partners in the Connecticut Child Exploitation Task Force, this predator has been brought to justice and will no longer be in a position to harm innocent children." said Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent In Charge of HSI Boston.

HSI New Haven's investigation also revealed that Hull had a video camera installed in his bathroom. The camera was connected to a VCR that captured images of individuals, including children, who used his bathroom. Agents located and seized several VHS tapes containing these recordings in the home.

Hull had been detained since his arrest on May 31, 2017. In January, 2018, he pleaded guilty to one count of receipt of child pornography. As part of the sentence the judge also ordered Hull to pay a special assessment of $5,000, which will be used to fund victim services, as pursuant to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015

This case was investigated by HSI, New Haven, part of Homeland Security Investigations office in Boston; by the Shelton, Connecticut Police Department and by the Connecticut Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The case was prosecuted by the office of John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut.

This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 16,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2016, more than 2,600 child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 800 victims identified or rescued.

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 its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

HSI is a founding member of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.