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Child Exploitation

Iowa man sentenced to 17 1/2 years in federal prison for possessing child pornography

DES MOINES, Iowa — A central Iowa man has been sentenced to 17 ½ years in federal prison for possessing and receiving child pornography.

This sentence resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations' Cyber Crime Unit, and the Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force.

Benjaman Shelabarger, 36, of Dallas Center, Iowa, was sentenced to 210 months in prison on child pornography conviction. Shelabarger was also ordered to serve five years of supervised release following his prison term. There is no parole in the federal prison system.

Shelabarger's sentence was enhanced, in part, because he falsely testified during his trial that a relative was responsible for the crime; the judge declared his false testimony was an obstruction of justice. Shelabager's sentence was further enhanced because he had a significant number of movies and images of very young children being sexually assaulted.

Shelabarger was originally charged in March 2013 with one count of illegally possessing child pornography. He was additionally charged with knowingly receiving child pornography when the indictment was superseded in October 2013. A jury unanimously convicted Shelabarger on both counts Nov. 6, 2013.

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.