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Child Exploitation

Indiana man pleads guilty to child exploitation charges in Colorado, will serve 30 years in prison

DENVER – An Indiana man pleaded guilty last week to attempted coercion and enticement to engage in unlawful sexual activity with a minor child, and distributing child pornography. This guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney John Walsh, District of Colorado, and Special Agent in Charge Kumar C. Kibble of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Denver.

As part of his guilty plea, Steven Raines, 35, of Fort Wayne, Ind., agreed to a stipulated sentence of 30 years in federal prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release. He will also have to register as a sex offender. Raines is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson Jan. 22. Raines remains in custody, held without bond, while his case progresses.

Raines was first charged by criminal complaint July 2. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver July 9; and he pleaded guilty Oct. 24.

According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, on April 1, an HSI special agent based in Glenwood Springs, Colo., was chatting online in an undercover capacity. Specifically, the special agent's undercover persona was that of a single mother of two daughters under the age of 16. The special agent entered a chat room, accessible by anyone, whose topic focused on sex with children. While in the chat room the undercover special agent engaged in a chat with an individual who expressed interest in having sex with the mother and the two minor children. The individual went on to say that he had been searching for 20 years for someone who would provide sexual access to her children, and that he discovered that he was a "pedo" when he was 15. He also said that he had been previously accused of molesting a child to whom he had access, and that he previously attempted to meet someone in person, but the person failed to show.

The individual continued chatting and emailing, using his smart phone for the next three months. He wrote that he did not have a computer. Eventually investigators identified the individual as Raines. As the chats between Raines and the undercover special agent progressed, Raines began to send pictures, some of which depicted child pornography. Eventually Raines and the undercover special agent began to make plans for him to travel to Colorado in order to have sex with, or rape, the two young girls. The defendant's main interest, however, was one of the children under the age of 6. He discussed wanting to father a child with the mother. Raines also discussed other children he knew from church or his neighborhood, in whom he had a sexual interest, and with whom he attempted to have some sort of contact.

As the travel plans were finalized, Raines stated that he was going to bring his child pornography collection with him to Colorado in order to "teach" the girls. He stated an interest in producing child pornography with the mother and the two minor girls. The content of the child pornography he was bringing featured mostly prepubescent girls engaged in sexual acts, and included sadistic or masochistic conduct. During the communications between Raines and the special agent, he made statements about both his children, and about sexually molesting a minor child to whom he had access, and that he produced images of child pornography of him sexually abusing that child.

Raines began his travel to Colorado June 29. He sent texts to the undercover special agent during the duration of the trip. On June 30, near Topeka, Kan., the defendant's van broke down. He rented a vehicle to complete his journey. On June 30, he arrived at a residence in Garfield County, Colo., which was the address provided to him by the undercover special agent. After his arrival he was taken into custody. Special agents and officers seized the defendant's cell phone, which has the capacity to take photographs and video, which contained about 130 images and 84 videos of child pornography. During a lawful search of Raines' home, special agents and officers found various discs containing child pornography. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children identified 23 known series of child pornography featuring real child victims among the images the defendant had on his cell phone and in his email.

"As this case demonstrates, sexual exploitation of children is a serious threat that we must take seriously, and prosecute with determination," said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. "The hard work of Homeland Security Investigations and our office in this case prevented terrible abuse to children, and took a sexual predator off the streets."

"The determination of this predator to sexually assault children demonstrates the importance of investigating and prosecuting these child sexual exploitation cases," said Kibble. "By working together with our law enforcement partners, Homeland Security Investigations helps protect children, while also ensuring that their predators are identified and prosecuted." Kibble oversees a four state area, including: Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

This case was investigated by HSI and the Garfield County Sheriff's Office. HSI Indianapolis, and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Fort Wayne, Ind., also played important roles in this investigation and prosecution.

Raines was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michelle Heldmyer and ICE Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Lillian Alves.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide 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. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE 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, at 1-800-843-5678.