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Child Exploitation

Missouri man pleads guilty to producing child pornography, faces at least 15 years in prison

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A northwestern Missouri man pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to producing and collecting more than a thousand images of child pornography. This guilty plea resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS).

Jeffrey Dale Wiederholt, 34, of Stanberry, Mo., pleaded guilty to producing, transporting and receiving child pornography.

In August 2010, federal agents learned that Wiederholt was actively trading child pornography with a number of individuals. He was caught trading child pornography with another person who was the target of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

After reviewing Wiederholt's email account and personal cell phone – and his postings on a Russian image-hosting Internet site that caters to those who trade in child pornography – it was apparent that he had produced images of child pornography. Multiple emails, message board postings and Wiederholt's own confession confirmed that he used a minor to produce child pornography Dec. 29, 2010. Wiederholt saved an image of the minor, who was less than 12-years-old, on his personal cell phone. He also told multiple individuals that he was sexually abusing this minor, and he admitted this in his confession. Wiederholt subsequently distributed this image and others via email and online.

A forensic examination of Wiederholt's laptop computer demonstrated that he possessed at least 1,238 images and 33 video files of child pornography. His email account demonstrated that he had distributed and received dozens of emails containing numerous images and videos of child pornography. Some of these images depicted sadistic and masochistic acts.

Under federal statutes, Wiederholt is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole for producing child pornography. He also faces a mandatory sentence of five years in federal prison without parole on each of the other two child pornography counts. He could be sentenced up to a maximum of 70 years in federal prison without parole. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the U.S. Probation Office completes a pre-sentence investigation.

Wiederholt must forfeit to the government his laptop computer, a Blackberry cell phone and a digital camera, all of which were used to commit the offenses.

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.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.