PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Michael Penwell, 41, resident of New Castle, Pa, pleaded guilty on March 8 in federal court to three counts of violating federal child exploitation laws as a result of an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Court documents show that between January 2008 and October 16, 2008, Penwell produced, transported and possessed visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
His sentencing is scheduled for July 8, 2010. The law provides for a maximum total sentence of at least 15 years and up to 60 years in prison, a fine of $750,000, or both. Under the federal sentencing guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
ICE jointly investigated this case with the Pennsylvania State Police and the New Castle Police Department.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers and foreign-national predators whose crimes make them deportable. Launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested almost 12,000 individuals through Operation Predator.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.