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Child Exploitation

Palm Beach County man sentenced for possession and distribution of child pornography

MIAMI - A 20-year-old Palm Beach County man was sentenced Friday to 150 months in federal prison for possessing and distributing child pornography following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Michael L. Pickering, who pleaded guilty on July 17 to two counts of distribution of child pornography and possession of child pornography, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra to 12 ½ years in prison and 15 years of supervised release.

The investigation began in August 2008 when an undercover RCMP officer downloaded approximately 350 images of child pornography from Pickering on an Internet-based file sharing website. The RCMP, with the assistance of French authorities, learned that Pickering's computer used an Internet protocol address that was assigned to a residence in West Palm Beach, Fla.

On March 31, an FBI agent located Pickering using the Internet. Through the same file sharing program, Pickering allowed the agent to view and download files he had selected to share with others directly from his computer. The agent downloaded video, text and image files from Pickering's computer, which depicted children under the age of 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

On April 14, ICE and FBI agents executed a federal search warrant at Pickering's West Palm Beach residence. Federal authorities seized multiple computers that contained numerous images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. A forensic examination of Pickering's computers revealed 109 videos and more than 4,000 photographic images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Most of the images depicted children under the age of 12. Some of the material also included images of children in bondage.

"Too many children are victimized by predators that target the most vulnerable among us - our children," said Anthony V. Mangione, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Miami. "ICE is committed to apprehending and presenting for prosecution cases involving those who abuse our children and endanger their lives and well-being. We will continue working with federal, state and local agencies to ensure that those who try to hurt children are brought to justice."

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 more than 11,600 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/.

The U. S. Attorney commended the investigative efforts of ICE's Office of Investigations in Miami and the FBI in Miami. He also commended the RCMP for their assistance and cooperation in this matter.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Dispoto.