MISSOULA, Mont. — A Montana man, who admitted soliciting sexually explicit images of a girl through his Facebook account and cellphone, pleaded guilty Monday to sexually exploiting a child.
U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme, District of Montana, announced this sentence. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and Flathead County (Montana) Sheriff's Office.
Todd Louis Pajnich, 30, appeared Dec. 16 before U.S. Magistrate Kathleen L. DeSoto, who will recommend his plea be accepted by Chief U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen, who is hearing this case.
Pajnich faces a minimum mandatory 15 years to 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and at least five years to a lifetime of supervised release. Pajnich was detained pending further proceedings.
Pajnich's sentencing is set for March 27.
The prosecution said that beginning in January, Pajnich started communicating on Facebook with a 10-year-old girl. In April, Facebook reported potential online sexual exploitation involving the girl's and Pajnich's accounts. A law enforcement investigation found records in which Pajnich asked the girl her age and that she told him she was 13. Pajnich then asked the girl to send him sexually explicit images of herself. He sent the victim sexually explicit images of a male, purportedly of himself, and encouraged the girl to send him sexually explicit images of herself, which she did. Pajnich admitted to law enforcement that he knew the victim was a child and that he solicited sexually explicit images of her.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 19,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child exploitation material, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2018, more than 3,000 (3,191) child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 850 (859) victims identified or rescued.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
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-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page. HSI is a founding member 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.