North Dakota man convicted of international child pornography crimes
BISMARCK, N.D. — A central North Dakota man was convicted in federal court Monday on five counts related to child pornography and child exploitation crimes.
This conviction resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) offices in North Dakota and the Philippines, and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).
Calvin Bernhardt, 54, of Tuttle, North Dakota, was found guilty, following a four-day trial, on charges of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor, attempted receipt of materials depicting the sexual exploitation of a minor, counterfeit currency, tampering with witness or evidence, and attempted travel with intent to engage in sexual acts with a minor.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Delorme stated, “The United States and the District of North Dakota will not tolerate this kind of conduct and victimization of children over the internet regardless of where the victim is located. People engaging in this kind of conduct should expect to be vigorously prosecuted in this District.”
From about September 2015 to March 2016, Bernhardt induced and enticed a 14-year-old minor from the Philippines to engage in and produce sexually explicit images via the internet. Bernhardt further induced the minor to send him the images which included depictions of sadism and masochism.
Once Bernhardt became aware of an investigation into his illegal conduct, he contacted the mother of the victim in the Philippines and instructed her to delete any images of himself and the minor on the minor’s cellphone, and further instructed her to not talk to HSI officials in the Philippines. Communications between Bernhardt and the victim revealed that Bernhardt was attempting to arrange a meeting with the minor in a Philippines hotel with the intent of engaging in sexual acts with her.
Assistant US Attorneys Gary Delorme and Jon O’Konek prosecuted this case.
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 14,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2015, nearly 2,400 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 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.