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May 29, 2013Kansas City, KS, United StatesChild Exploitation

Kansas man sentenced to 30 years in prison for producing child pornography

Latest developments in Operation Holitna

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – A suburban Kansas City man was sentenced in federal court Wednesday to the maximum of 30 years in federal prison for producing child pornography, which included images of a naked 2-year old boy in a roaster pan in an oven.

This sentence resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Johnson County, Kan., Sheriff’s Department.

Michael D. Arnett, 38, of Roeland Park, Kan., had pleaded guilty Feb. 11 to one count of producing child pornography. In his plea, Arnett admitted that investigators found child pornography on his computer when they served a search warrant at his home in Roeland Park May 15, 2012.

"Traumatizing children for sexual purposes is one of the most heinous crimes we investigate," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago, which oversees Kansas. "To rescue these innocent victims, HSI relentlessly pursues child predators. Since we began Operation Holitna, a worldwide network of child predator has been, and continues to be, unraveled, which included Arnett. Thanks to the determination of HSI special agents and our law enforcement partners, we have been able to rescue 163 children and arrest 51 perpetrators worldwide under this operation."

This case began when federal agents uncovered an international ring of people using various chat rooms and other Internet technology to discuss and share child pornography. Some images shared included those of victims who, based on identifying information in the images, appeared to be from the Kansas City-area.

In these images, investigators focused on a water bottle in one of the photos bearing the logo of a local business which through thorough detective work eventually led to identifying some of Arnett’s victims.

With the assistance of teachers at a local elementary school, investigators ultimately identified three children who had been photographed at Arnett’s home. At the time the photos were taken, the victims were 11, 8 and 2 years old. Among the images investigators found was one of a naked boy about 2 years old lying in a roaster pan that was placed inside an open oven. Another image showed the same boy in the roaster pan with the oven door shut.

According to additional court documents throughout the United States, Arnett was also communicating on the Internet with other child pornography suspects. The following have been arrested and charged as part of this international child pornography investigation; these suspects were communicating directly with Arnett via the Internet: Geoffrey Portway, 40, of Worcester, Mass., Ronald Brown, 57, of Largo, Fla.; Robert Mucha, 56, of Newton, N.J.; Jason Scarcello, 42, of Anderson, Calif.; and Richard Dates, 67, of Grant, N.M.

HSI also arrested Robert Poe III, 38, of Kansas City, Aug. 10, 2012. Following the publicity of the Arnett arrest, Poe was identified in May 2012 after a victim came forward and reported that he and his brother were both sexually molested as minors by Poe and Arnett. Poe pleaded guilty Feb. 19.

Arnett was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison, to be followed by 10 years supervised probation. In addition, he must register as a sex offender for life, and pay a $100 special assessment fee. This was the maximum sentence the court could impose. There is no parole in the federal prison system.

Today's sentencing is part of Operation Holitna, an ongoing HSI-led investigation that originated in Boston. In 2010, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts and HSI Boston arrested Robert Diduca on child pornography production charges. He was convicted and subsequently sentenced in June 2012. Forensic analysis of Diduca's computer led investigators to the Netherlands where a Dutch national was arrested and charged with production, distribution and possession of child pornography, as well as the sexual assault of 87 minors. Defendants and victims continue to be identified around the world. To date, more than 160 children have been rescued and 51 perpetrators arrested worldwide – including Arnett – as a result of Operation Holitna.

This investigation was also 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 1-866-347-2423 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, 1-800-843-5678.

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.