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April 26, 2022Washington, DC, United StatesChild Exploitation

An investigation led by ICE HSI Washington, DC results in a 5 year prison term for an Ohio man

WASHINGTON — An investigation led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C. field office landed a Cleveland, Ohio man in federal prison for attempting to solicit sexual activity from someone he believed to be a 13-year-old girl from Virginia. Matthew Benjamin Foltz, 29 used an online messaging application “Whisper” to engage in sexually explicit conversations with an undercover agent.

Foltz was sentenced on April 25 to 60 months in federal prison after pleading guilty earlier this year to one count of persuading, enticing, or coercing a person to travel in interstate commerce to engage in sexual activity.

“Mr. Foltz engaged in graphic, disturbing conversations with someone he believed was a 13-year-old girl,” said Special Agent in Charge Ray Villanueva of HSI Washington, D.C. “Fortunately, he was really conversing with an undercover agent. This man is a predator, who wanted to abuse a young girl. Thanks to our strong partnerships with local law enforcement, we were able to bring him to justice.”

According to the investigation, HSI agents, working with local law enforcement portrayed themselves as a 13-year-old girl living in Roanoke, Virginia, and began an online conversation on Whisper with a user named “Macabre_return,” later determined to be Foltz.

Several times during the course of his online conversation with law enforcement, Foltz expressed his desire to bring the 13-year-old girl back to his home in Ohio so that he could both impregnate her and teach her how to please him sexually. Foltz, who also identified himself by the alias “Michael Halliburton,” provided what he purported was a photograph of himself as well as airline flight information for a trip to Ohio.

Whisper is an online messaging application that has gained popularity as a form of anonymous social media, allowing users to post and share photo and video messages anonymously. Some users, however, have challenged this claim voicing privacy concerns over Whisper's handling of user data. The message posts, called "whispers", consist of text superimposed over an image, and the background imagery is either retrieved from Whisper's search engine or uploaded by the user posting the message.

HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 04/27/2022