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Child Exploitation
02/11/2020

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Illinois man to serve 26 years in federal prison for sexually exploiting minors

URBANA, Ill. — A rural Illinois man was sentenced Tuesday to 26 years in prison for committing sex crimes against two minor girls.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the police departments of Atwood, Tuscola, Arthur, and Decatur, Illinois investigated the case.

On Sept. 9, 2019, Dennis H. West, 44, of Atwood, Illinois, pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual exploitation of minors in 2017 and 2018.

According to court documents, West began grooming the minors when they were in junior high school.

West paid the children to engage in sex acts and to send pictures to him of sexually explicit conduct. 

In addition to the 26-year prison sentence, U.S District Judge Michael M. Mihm ordered West to remain on supervised release for 15 years following release from prison.

West has remained in law enforcement custody since his arrest in March 2019.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly M. Peirson, Central District of Illinois prosecuted this case for the government.

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 exploitation material, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2017, more than 2,700 child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 900 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.

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 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.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 02/13/2020