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November 26, 2013Urbana, IL, United StatesChild Exploitation

Illinois man sentenced to 15 years in prison for producing child pornography

URBANA, Ill. — An Illinois man was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison for videotaping minors in his home and possessing child pornography.

This lengthy sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Champaign, Ill., Police Department.

Michael L. Denight, 59, of Mahomet, Ill., was sentenced Nov. 25 to 180 months in federal prison and further ordered to serve a lifetime of supervised release after he completes his prison term. Denight has been in U.S. Marshals Service custody since his arrest on federal charges in early 2012.

Denight pleaded guilty May 17 to six counts of sexually exploiting a minor and one count of possessing child pornography. He admitted videotaping minors in the bathrooms of his home beginning in 2000 and continuing through 2007.

According to court documents, the investigation began after a customer at a Champaign coffee shop reported to an employee that she believed there was a video recording device mounted in the ladies' restroom. A man, later identified as Denight, was observed approaching the ladies' restroom and then quickly leaving the coffee shop. When the customer and employee entered the restroom, the device was gone, and the man had left behind several personal items, including a cellphone, at the coffee shop. The cellphone was provided to the Champaign Police Department.

At the time of his arrest, Denight was employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, in Champaign.

This case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of Illinois, Urbana Division, with the cooperation of the Champaign County State's Attorney's Office.

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 10,000 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 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.

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. 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.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

HSI is a founding member and current chair 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.