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Child Exploitation

Law enforcement officer charged with receipt of child pornography

FT. PIERCE, Fla. - A 26-year-old Vero Beach resident and former law enforcement officer appeared in U.S. District Court earlier today to face federal child pornography charges following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation with the Indian River County Sheriff's Office (IRCSO).

Stephen Thomas, formerly a law enforcement officer for IRCSO, was charged with receipt of child pornography in his initial appearance.

According to the criminal complaint filed with the U.S. District Court, the case began in November 2008 with an IRCSO Internet investigation. On Dec. 16, 2008, IRCSO executed a state child pornography search warrant at Thomas' residence in Vero Beach, which is located on the grounds of the Rosewood Magnet Elementary School.

Upon execution of the warrant, a safe was located in Thomas' bedroom. An external hard drive was recovered from a lockbox found inside the safe.

A search of a laptop computer, which was located inside Thomas' assigned Sheriff's Office patrol vehicle, revealed the presence of over 80 video clips depicting children under the age of 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Forensic analysis of the external hard drive revealed the presence of over 100 video clips and over 50 pictures depicting children under the age of 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct, along with thousands of child erotica images. Thomas was taken into state custody.

On March 11, 2009, ICE obtained a federal arrest warrant for Thomas for violation of 18 USC 2252(a)(2), Receipt of Child Pornography.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rinku Talwar.

ICE's involvement in this investigation is part of the agency's initiative known as Operation Predator, an ongoing enforcement effort targeting those who prey upon and sexually exploit our nation's children - including Internet pornographers, international sex tourists, and foreign national sexual predators. ICE encourages the reporting of suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is 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 ICE partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or www.cybertipline.com.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov