BOISE, Idaho - An Idaho man who took sexually explicit pictures of a 4-year-old child and traded them on the Internet was sentenced Monday to 15 years and nine months in federal prison, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Robert William Hull, 35, of Nampa, Idaho, pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of children in March. At his court hearing, he was ordered to serve 10 years of supervised release following his release from prison and pay a $1,500 fine.
According to court documents, in November, detectives with the Saskatoon Police Service in Saskatchewan, Canada, were investigating a child exploitation case involving a local resident. A search warrant was executed at the suspect's house and several items were seized.
Investigators determined that several of the man's online accounts were used to distribute sexually explicit images of children and communicate with others involved in child sexual exploitation. Further investigation revealed that several messages had been exchanged between the Canadian suspect and a user with an AOL e-mail address and mobile phone account associated with Idaho's 208 telephone area code.
Investigators analyzed the messages and determined that pornographic images of a child who was approximately 4 years old had been exchanged. An investigation was initiated by the Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children task force, which includes ICE HSI, into possible production and trafficking in sexually explicit images of minors between the Saskatchewan man and a person in Nampa.
In late November, investigators linked the images to Hull. On Dec. 2, a search warrant was executed at Hull's home and he admitted that he took 30 to 40 sexually explicit photographs of a 4-year-old who was the daughter of a relative. He sent the images to individuals in Canada and the United Kingdom.
Further investigation into Hull's electronic media led to the arrest of a 41-year-old man in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada, for making or publishing child pornography. A 7-year-old child, whose images were found among the child pornography on Hull's media, was rescued by Canadian authorities as a direct result of the Hull investigation.
"Children anywhere in the world should be allowed to grow up without the threat of being sexually exploited by those who are involved in the underworld of child pornography," said Brad Bench, deputy special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Idaho. "This prison sentence ensures that the defendant is no longer a threat to innocent children and the public. Investigating this type of crime continues to be a high priority for ICE HSI."
"Protecting our children is a goal shared by all law enforcement and prosecutors," said the U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho Wendy Olson. "The international law enforcement cooperation in this case both ensured that child sexual predators were caught and rescued two children from horrific abuse. We will continue to cooperate with our state, local and international partners and to use all of our resources to bring to justice those who seek to harm children."
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE 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.