ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico man made his initial appearance in federal court Friday morning following his arrest on criminal charges stemming from a far-reaching international child pornography probe that has resulted in numerous arrests worldwide. He was ordered held pending a detention hearing.
Richard Dates, 67, of Grant, N.M., was taken into custody Thursday afternoon at his home by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Dates was arrested after HSI special agents executed a federal search warrant at his residence and discovered computers containing sexually explicit images and videos of children.
According to the criminal complaint, suspicions about Dates first arose after investigators determined he had engaged in computer chats with two suspects previously charged in the case, Michael Arnett of Roeland Park, Kan., and Geoffrey Portway of Worcester, Mass. In June 2011, Dates and Portway allegedly shared images of child pornography, specifically of children being sexually abused by adults. HSI special agents executed a federal search warrant at his residence in Grant Thursday. HSI special agents discovered hundreds of images of child pornography on his two computers.
"The extremely disturbing tentacles of this investigation extend overseas, across the United States, and now to New Mexico," said Dennis Ulrich, special agent in charge of HSI El Paso, Texas. Ulrich oversees HSI throughout New Mexico. "This investigation, and all our Operation Predator investigations, are solely designed to protect our children, and bring to justice their victimizers."
Today's charges are part of Operation Holitna, an ongoing HSI-led investigation that originated in Boston. In 2010, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts and HSI Boston arrested Robert Diduca on child pornography production charges. He was convicted and subsequently sentenced in June 2012. Forensic analysis of Diduca's computer led investigators to the Netherlands where a Dutch national was arrested and charged with production, distribution and possession of child pornography, as well as the sexual abuse of 87 minors. Since that time, a worldwide network of offenders has been, and continues to be, unraveled, including today's defendant. Defendants and victims continue to be identified around the world. To date, more than 150 children have been rescued and 46 perpetrators arrested worldwide – including Dates – as a result of Operation Holitna.
This case is also the result of HSI's Operation Predator, a nationwide initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who sexually exploit children. As part of Operation Predator, HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or 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.