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September 9, 2015Washington, DC, United StatesChild Exploitation

Investigation results in 40-year prison sentence for Maryland music teacher who sexually abused children

As summer ends and another school year begins, parents, teachers, school administrators and other caregivers would be wise to take note of a recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigation that led to a Maryland teacher being sentenced to 40 years in prison for sexually abusing 15 children. The story was featured in People magazine.

Lawrence Joynes, 56, of Dundalk, Maryland, sexually abused 14 children in kindergarten through second grade in his classroom at the New Hampshire Estates Elementary school in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he was a music teacher. In the 1990s, Joynes also sexually abused another child, who is now an adult.

Joynes’ 27 year-career with the Montgomery County public school system, his days of freedom and, most importantly, his ability to sexually molest innocent children were numbered beginning in Oct. 2012 when an HSI partnering agency, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) sent a photo of a child being molested to the HSI Cyber Crimes Center (C3) for examination.

After intense investigation, forensic experts at C3 determined that Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was the location where the photo was taken, and HSI Charleston was contacted.

Special Agent Henry Cook of HSI Charleston, furthered the investigation by identifying the perpetrator, Gerald Roberts, in the photo as well as the child, who was the daughter of Roberts’ best friend.

Roberts was arrested, pleaded guilty, and in Jan. 2014, he was sentenced in the District of South Carolina to 327 months in prison. NCMEC honored HSI special agents for this case for going “above and beyond the call of duty… in successfully resolving a child exploitation case.”

“Roberts was a high-level child predator,” said Cook. “He communicated and shared child pornography with a number of other pedophiles, one of whom was Lawrence Joynes.”

The Roberts investigation, like most cases involving child predators, led not only to Joynes, but to hundreds of other child abusers who meet on Internet sites to share images and footage of their dark and perverted pastime. HSI Charleston didn’t stop once they arrested Roberts.

“HSI has authorities and connections with law enforcement agencies all over the world,” said HSI Baltimore Assistant Special Agent in Charge Adam Parks, who was a group supervisor in HSI Charleston, during this case. “We sent more than 100 leads stemming from the Roberts’ case to HSI offices in cities and states all over the country, as well as to international law enforcement agencies for them to follow up with investigations, and rid the world of as many child predators as possible.”

“There a lot of heroes in the Joynes’ case,” said Parks. “But none of this would have happened if not for HSI’s Victim Identification Program, which is one of HSI’s newest methods to rescue sexually exploited children and identify and arrest their predators.”

In Feb. 2013, Joynes’ user email account was identified, and HSI Baltimore, along with the Baltimore County Police Department, became involved. HSI special agents and Baltimore County detectives executed a search warrant at Joynes’ residence in Dundalk, Maryland, and also at his classroom, finding videos and images of children and other digital media on his computer.

Joynes pleaded guilty in Feb. 2014 of possession of child pornography in Baltimore County Circuit Court. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender pursuant to his conviction.

Joynes was charged with 14 counts of sex abuse of a minor, one count of third degree sex offense, child abuse and second degree rape, faced trial and was sentenced in Montgomery County courthouse on Aug. 28 to 40 years in prison.

"This case illustrates perfectly the skill and commitment of our Crimes Against Children Unit and its Child Exploitation Squad,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson. It takes quality detective work to identify predators like Joynes. I'm proud of our work, and of the work of the other agencies that helped get this man off the street."

“As this case shows, we cannot take it for granted anymore that certain places are ‘safe’ for children,” said HSI Special Agent Christine Carlson, the lead special agent on the case in HSI Baltimore. “Child predators are everywhere. It’s not easy, but adults need to cut through the predators’ devious and cunning tactics. I’m just glad that we were able to get Joynes out of the school system and behind bars where he belongs.”

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline 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.