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Child Exploitation

Maryland man sentenced to 7 years in prison for distributing child pornography

BALTIMORE — Michael Gavel III, 38, of Baltimore, was sentenced July 11 by U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg to seven years in prison, followed by lifetime supervised release, for distributing child pornography. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Baltimore County Police Department, with assistance by the Baltimore County State's Attorney's Office.

Judge Legg ordered that upon Gavel's release from prison, Gavel must register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). In addition, Judge Legg ordered that Gavel pay restitution totaling $1,000 to two victims identified during previous child pornography investigations, whose images Gavel had downloaded from the Internet.

According to the plea agreement, on Jan. 5, 2011, an undercover Baltimore County Police detective downloaded six files from a file sharing program Gavel was running from his home computer. The files contained visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Baltimore County Police subsequently obtained a search warrant for Gavel's residence and seized a laptop computer and several thumb drives. A forensic examination of the computer and media revealed that there were more than 600 images of children, including prepubescent minors, engaged in sexually explicit conduct, including sadistic or masochistic conduct, or other depictions of violence. During an interview, Gavel admitted that he used a file sharing program to download, trade and view child pornography, and made the files publicly available for download.

This investigation was 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-DHS-2ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the "resources" tab on the left of the page.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Judson T. Mihok and Sean B. O'Connell.