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Child Exploitation

Missouri college student pleads guilty to trying to produce child pornography

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - A local college student pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday to sexually exploiting three minors in an attempt to produce child pornography. This guilty plea resulted from an investigation conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the Joplin, Mo., Police Department; and the St. Louis County, Mo., Police Department.

Harry Sneed, 19, of St. Louis, Mo., is a student at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. He pleaded guilty Oct. 6 in the Western District of Missouri. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Sneed will be sentenced to 20 years in federal prison without parole if the District Court judge accepts the plea agreement.

Sneed admitted to sending a series of emails to three 11-year-old minors, urging them to send him sexually explicit photos of themselves. Sneed portrayed himself as a 14-year-old girl who belonged to a "secret modeling agency." He promised the victims they could earn a lot of money working for the agency. Sneed also admitted sending images of child pornography to the victims. None of the victims complied with Sneed's requests.

Joplin police officers arrested Sneed at his dormitory room on March 18. Investigators searched his computer and found hundreds of photos and video files of child pornography.

By pleading guilty, Sneed also agreed to forfeit to the government a laptop computer and five USB flash drives.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James J. Kelleher, Western District of Missouri, is prosecuting the case.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE 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. Since Operation Predator was launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 12,800 individuals.

ICE encourages the public to report 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 and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.