Michelle Lee Freeman, 41, was sentenced to 25 years in prison Wednesday. Her husband, Michael Serapis Freeman, 40, was sentenced to 50 years in prison last week. According to court records, both admitted abusing minor relatives when they pleaded guilty in August to multiple counts of production of child pornography. Michelle also pleaded guilty to additional charges of knowingly permitting a child to participate in the production of child pornography.
"What is most important about this case is that two victims of child sex abuse were rescued," said Brad Bench, the Seattle-based HSI special agent who oversees the agency’s investigations in Oregon. "Whenever our investigations reveal the production and distribution of new child pornography, we will do everything we can to rescue the victim and prosecute the abuser."
In August 2012, ICE issued a national appeal for public assistance to locate an unknown child pornography suspect. HSI’s Cyber Crime Center obtained a federal "Jane Doe" arrest warrant in the District of Columbia for the suspect. Two weeks later, tips from the Pacific Northwest led HSI to call on local and regional news media to publicize the search. The news coverage and additional sharing on Facebook and other social media eventually led to the Freemans’ surrender Sept. 4, 2012.
The images of the child victims in this case were first discovered by HSI Los Angeles in June 2011 during a computer forensics examination of material in a separate child pornography probe. The material was submitted to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Child Victim Identification Program, the national clearinghouse for child sexual exploitation material. The center determined the child victims had not yet been identified or rescued. In June 2012, FBI special agents in Denver conducting an unrelated investigation found additional photos showing the same victims with Michelle.
The Freemans will be subject to lifetime supervision following their release.
HSI received investigative assistance from the Salem Police Department. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon’s Gang and Child Sex Trafficking Unit.
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 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including producing and distributing online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
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. 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.
HSI is a founding member and current chair 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.